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Let's Talk Mezcal: Tequila's Smokey Cousin

Updated: Jul 31, 2020

I love mezcal. It doesn't get as much attention as it's beloved cousin, tequila, but it makes some seriously delicious cocktails. Here's what you should know.

Tequila and mezcal are actually more than cousins. In the same way that all bourbons are whiskeys, but not all whiskey can be bourbon...tequila is mezcal, but not all mezcal is a tequila. In fact, mezcal came first (even though tequilas are much more widely known). "Mezcal" is like the term wine and covers anything made from the agave plant.

If you remember from our article about all things tequila, in order to be classified as a tequila, it must be made from the Blue Weber agave plant. Mezcals are also made from the agave plant, but can be made from 30+ varietals, that are native to Mexico. However, it is most commonly made from the Espadin agave plant from Oaxaca. Mezcals are generally differentiated by the kind of agave plant used to make them and the associated region.

Mezcal can be a "mixto" in the same way that tequilas are, but a mixto mezcal must be at least 80% agave (and the rest derived from a sugar cane).

How is it made? Why is it smokey?

Mezcal is made from the agave plant, which takes a minimum of 4 years (and usually more like 8-10) to mature. The entire plant is harvested, and the process restarts with completely new plants. Talk about planning!

Mezcal gets its famous smokey flavor from the production process. Unlike tequila, which is not cooked, during mezcal production, the agave hearts (the pinas) are roasted in pits where they come in direct contact with the coals. The pinas are then crushed and mixed with water to ferment into mezcal.

What about the worm?

The worm is actually a larva from the moths that live on the agave plant. The origin or legend of the worm is still debated, but the most popular theory dates back to a post WWII marketing campaign, in which a maker wanted to differentiate his bottle on the shelf (and so added a worm, yum!).

So how do you drink it?

In Oaxaca, mezcal is served room temperature in a wineglass with salt and an orange slice. You've probably also seen it popping up on cocktail menus at your favorite spots. We love a smoky margarita!

Scroll down for my 3 favorite mezcal cocktails!

Drink Wisely,


1. Wicked Smokey Margarita

A deliciously smokey and spicy margarita!

2 parts Wicked Margarita (Green Tea, Lime, Habanero)

1 part Mezcal

Squeeze of fresh lime juice

Optional: Chili salt rim

Add all ingredients to a shaker with ice. Shake and serve on the rocks.

2. Strawberry Smoke

A little sweet and a little smokey

2 parts Strawberry Manhattan (Darjeeling, Hibiscus, Strawberry)

1 part Mezcal

Squeeze of fresh lime juice

Garnish: Fresh strawberry slice

Add all ingredients to a shaker with ice. Shake and serve on the rocks. Garnish with strawberry.

3. Citrus Smoke Margarita

Perfectly smokey& citrusy!

2 parts Citrus Sweet Tea(English Breakfast, Lemon, Lime)

1 part Mezcal

Squeeze of fresh grapefruit

Optional: Salt rim

Add all ingredients to a shaker with ice. Shake and serve on the rocks.

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In contrast to tequila, which is not subjected to cooking, the manufacturing of mezcal involves the roasting of agave hearts (known as pinas) in pits, where they are directly exposed to the embers. doodle baseball

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