How to Drink Mezcal (Guide)

how to drink mezcal

Mezcal is not just a smoky cousin of tequila but a diverse spirit with a wide range of flavors. As mezcal gains popularity in the U.S., it’s important to understand the best ways to enjoy this unique drink.

When choosing a mezcal, look for information on the label, including the name of the producer, the town of origin, and the agave variety. Mezcal is best enjoyed neat in a traditional copita or veladora glass.

Key Takeaways:

  • Mezcal is a diverse spirit with a wide range of flavors.
  • Choose a mezcal with transparent labeling for quality and authenticity.
  • Enjoy mezcal neat in a traditional copita or veladora glass.
  • Take your time to savor the flavors and aromas of mezcal.
  • Experiment with mezcal in cocktails and food pairings for unique experiences.

Understanding Mezcal Varieties

Mezcal, a unique spirit with a rich history and diverse flavors, is made from over 50 different agave varieties. Each variety offers its own distinct characteristics, making mezcal a truly intriguing and complex drink to explore. Let’s delve into some of the most popular mezcal varieties and discover the fascinating range of flavors they possess.

One of the most common agave varieties used to make mezcal is Espadín. This variety is known for its versatility and is often less smoky compared to other varieties. With flavors ranging from fruity to earthy, Espadín mezcal can be a great choice for those who enjoy the taste of tequila. Other notable mezcal varieties include Cenizo, Arroqueño, Tobalá, and Tepezate, each offering its own unique flavor profile.

When tasting mezcal, it’s important to pay attention to the intricate mix of flavors and aromas. Mezcal can contain up to 600 different compounds that contribute to its complex taste. Take the time to savor the different notes, from smoky and herbal to fruity and floral. By exploring the various mezcal varieties, you can truly appreciate the diversity and depth of this traditional Mexican spirit.

Mezcal Variety Tasting Notes
Espadín Less smoky, fruity, earthy
Cenizo Complex, vegetal, herbal
Arroqueño Earthy, floral, peppery
Tobalá Delicate, tropical fruit, citrus
Tepezate Earthy, smoky, mineral

Exploring the different mezcal varieties is not only a delightful tasting experience but also a journey into the rich cultural heritage of Mexico. Each variety represents the traditions and flavors of the region it originates from, adding depth and character to every sip of mezcal.

Choosing the Right Mezcal

When it comes to choosing the right mezcal, there are a few key factors to consider. First and foremost, look for bottles that provide detailed information on the label. This includes the name of the producer and the village of origin. Mezcal that offers this level of transparency is often a sign of a quality, artisanal product.

Once you have selected a mezcal, the next step is deciding how to enjoy it. Mezcal can be savored on its own, neat in a traditional copita or veladora glass. However, it also serves as a fantastic base for cocktails, adding a unique and smoky flavor to your favorite drinks.

If you’re looking for inspiration, there are plenty of amazing mezcal cocktail recipes to explore. Mezcal pairs particularly well with fruity flavors, making it a great choice for tropical cocktails. Try substituting mezcal for rum in your favorite cocktail recipes or get creative and experiment with different combinations to find your perfect mezcal cocktail.

Whether you choose to enjoy mezcal straight or in a cocktail, the most important thing is to savor the experience. Take your time to appreciate the flavors and aromas, and let the unique characteristics of mezcal transport you to the heart of Mexican culture.

The Art of Mezcal Tasting

To fully appreciate the flavors of mezcal, it is important to take small sips and let the spirit rest in your mouth for a few seconds. This allows you to experience the range of flavors, including spices like vanilla and clove, citrus notes, and hints of smoke. Mezcal can be enjoyed on its own or paired with food, such as oranges, which complement its fruity notes.

Tasting Notes:

  • Spices: Mezcal can offer a variety of spices on the palate, such as vanilla and clove. These warm, aromatic flavors add complexity to the spirit.
  • Citrus: Many mezcals have bright, citrusy notes that provide a refreshing contrast to the smokiness. Look for hints of lemon, lime, or orange in the flavor profile.
  • Smoke: Mezcal is known for its smoky character, which comes from the traditional production process involving roasting the agave hearts in underground pits. The smokiness can vary from subtle to robust, depending on the mezcal’s production method and aging process.

Pairing mezcal with food can enhance both the spirit and the flavors of the dish. Fruity notes in mezcal, such as those found in orange slices, can be elevated when enjoyed alongside certain foods. The combination of mezcal’s unique flavors and complementary ingredients can create a harmonious culinary experience.

Exploring the world of mezcal tasting allows you to uncover the nuances and depth of this complex spirit. With each sip, you embark on a sensory journey, discovering the intricate balance of flavors and aromas that make mezcal truly special.

Mezcal Glassware

When it comes to enjoying mezcal, the choice of glassware plays an important role in enhancing the overall experience. Traditional mezcal glassware, such as the copita and veladora, are designed to bring out the aromas and flavors of this unique spirit.

The copita is a small clay bowl with a wide mouth that allows the aromas to be released. Its shape concentrates the scents, making it easier to appreciate the complex notes of the mezcal. The wide mouth also allows for small sips, ensuring that the flavors are fully savored.

The veladora, on the other hand, is a small glass votive that shares similar characteristics with the copita. It is designed to showcase the colors and clarity of the mezcal, while still allowing the aromas to be enjoyed. Both the copita and veladora are traditional choices that have been used for centuries to serve mezcal.

Glassware Features
Copita – Small clay bowl
– Wide mouth for aromas
– Concentrates scents
Veladora – Small glass votive
– Showcases colors and clarity
– Allows for aroma enjoyment

While these traditional glassware options are preferred by purists, it is also acceptable to use other types of suitable glassware, such as a tulip-shaped glass or a short tumbler. The key is to choose a glass that allows the aromas to be released and provides enough space for you to appreciate the flavors.

When enjoying mezcal, it is important to avoid using ice or chilling the spirit, as this can mask the subtleties of its flavors. Mezcal is best enjoyed at room temperature or slightly chilled to preserve its unique characteristics.

So, whether you opt for the traditional copita or choose another suitable glass, the right glassware can enhance your mezcal experience by allowing you to fully savor the aromas and flavors of this rich spirit.

Enhancing the Mezcal Experience

When it comes to enjoying mezcal, there are plenty of ways to enhance the experience and create unique and delicious cocktails. Here are a few ideas to take your mezcal journey to the next level:

  1. Spice it up with chili: For a kick of heat that complements the smoky flavors of mezcal, try adding a pinch of chili powder or a small slice of fresh chili pepper to your cocktail. It adds a vibrant and spicy twist to your drink.
  2. Infuse fruit flavors: Mezcal pairs exceptionally well with fruity flavors. Experiment with infusing your mezcal with berries, pineapple, or even watermelon. Simply add your chosen fruit to a bottle of mezcal and let it steep for a few days. The result is a mezcal infused with natural sweetness that adds depth to your cocktails.
  3. Create a mezcal margarita: Put a unique twist on the classic margarita by substituting tequila with mezcal. The smoky notes of mezcal add a whole new dimension to this iconic cocktail. Combine mezcal, lime juice, agave syrup, and a splash of orange liqueur in a shaker with ice. Shake well and strain into a salt-rimmed glass for a refreshing and flavorful drink.

“Mezcal is a versatile spirit that invites exploration and creativity in mixology. With its complex flavors and unique character, mezcal provides an exciting canvas to experiment and create delicious cocktails.”

Remember, the key to enhancing the mezcal experience is to let your imagination run wild and have fun with the process. Don’t be afraid to try new ingredients, flavors, and techniques to create cocktails that showcase the beauty of mezcal. Cheers to discovering your own best mezcal cocktails!

Table: Mezcal Cocktail Recipes

Cocktail Ingredients Instructions
Smoky Paloma – 2 oz mezcal
– 1 oz grapefruit juice
– 1/2 oz lime juice
– 1/2 oz agave syrup
– Club soda
– Grapefruit wedge and salt for garnish
1. Rim a glass with salt.
2. Fill the glass with ice.
3. In a shaker, combine mezcal, grapefruit juice, lime juice, and agave syrup.
4. Shake well and strain into the glass.
5. Top with club soda and garnish with a grapefruit wedge.
Mezcal Old Fashioned – 2 oz mezcal
– 1/2 oz simple syrup
– 2 dashes Angostura bitters
– Orange twist for garnish
– Ice
1. In a glass, muddle the simple syrup and bitters.
2. Add ice and mezcal.
3. Stir gently to combine.
4. Garnish with an orange twist.
Mezcal Mojito – 2 oz mezcal
– 1 oz lime juice
– 3/4 oz simple syrup
– 6-8 fresh mint leaves
– Club soda
– Lime wedge and mint sprig for garnish
1. In a glass, muddle the mint leaves with lime juice and simple syrup.
2. Fill the glass with ice.
3. Add mezcal and stir gently.
4. Top with club soda and garnish with a lime wedge and mint sprig.

Mezcal Tasting and Maturation

Mezcal, like many fine spirits, undergoes a maturation process that greatly influences its flavor profile. Understanding the different aging categories and the methods used in the production of mezcal can deepen your appreciation for this unique spirit.

The three main categories of mezcal aging are joven, reposado, and añejo. Joven mezcal refers to unaged spirits that are transparent, allowing the true essence of the agave to shine through. Reposado mezcal is aged for a minimum of two months in wooden barrels, resulting in a richer flavor and a light amber color. Finally, añejo mezcal is aged for at least one year, developing a darker shade of amber and complex notes that are reminiscent of aged whiskey or fine cognac.

During the maturation process, the flavor compounds in mezcal undergo chemical changes, resulting in a variety of tasting notes. Joven mezcal tends to have vibrant and fresh flavors, with hints of citrus and herbal notes. Reposado mezcal, with its brief aging period, offers a balance between the agave’s natural sweetness and the subtle influence of the wooden barrels. Añejo mezcal, with its longer aging time, develops deeper flavors of caramel, vanilla, and toasted oak.

Mezcal Aging Category Color Flavor Notes
Joven Transparent Vibrant, fresh, citrus, herbal
Reposado Light amber Balance of sweetness, subtle oak
Añejo Dark amber Caramel, vanilla, toasted oak

When exploring mezcal tasting notes, it’s important to note that the aging process is just one factor that contributes to the complex flavors. The type of agave used, the region where it was grown, and the distillation methods all play a role in creating a unique mezcal experience. By understanding the different aging categories and the impact they have on flavor, you can choose a mezcal that aligns with your preferences and embark on a sensory journey that uncovers the nuances of this exquisite spirit.

The Mezcal Experience

Mezcal is not just a drink but an experience. It is deeply rooted in Mexican culture and has been enjoyed in both religious rituals and celebratory events. When it comes to how to drink mezcal, the traditional way is to pour it into a glass with a wide mouth and savor it slowly. Shooting it as a shot is not the traditional method of consumption. Mezcal is often enjoyed neat, allowing its complex flavors to be fully appreciated.

Though mezcal is commonly consumed on its own, it can also be paired with food or used as a base for cocktails. The versatility of mezcal allows for endless possibilities in creating unique and flavorful drinks. It pairs particularly well with fruity flavors and can be used in tropical cocktails or substituted for rum in classic recipes.

Exploring Mezcal Cocktails

One way to enhance the mezcal experience is by exploring mezcal cocktails. The smoky flavors of mezcal can add depth and complexity to a variety of cocktails. From refreshing citrus-based drinks to spicy concoctions, there are countless mezcal cocktail recipes to try. Whether you’re a seasoned mixologist or a cocktail enthusiast, experimenting with different combinations of flavors and ingredients can lead to delightful discoveries.

Cocktail Name Ingredients Instructions
Mezcal Margarita 2 oz mezcal, 1 oz lime juice, 1 oz agave syrup Shake ingredients with ice, strain into a salt-rimmed glass, garnish with lime wedges
Smoky Paloma 2 oz mezcal, 4 oz grapefruit soda, 1 oz lime juice Build ingredients in a glass with ice, stir gently, garnish with grapefruit wedge
Oaxaca Old Fashioned 2 oz mezcal, 1/2 oz agave syrup, dash of Angostura bitters Stir ingredients with ice, strain into a glass with a large ice cube, garnish with an orange twist

Exploring the world of mezcal cocktails is a fun and creative way to enjoy this unique spirit. Whether you prefer a classic recipe or want to try something new, there is a mezcal cocktail out there to suit every taste.

Mezcal and Your Senses

Appreciating mezcal involves engaging all of your senses. From the moment you pour a glass of mezcal, your senses are awakened by its enticing aromas. The complex flavors of mezcal can transport you to the agave fields of Mexico, offering a truly immersive experience.

As you approach the glass, take a moment to inhale the mezcal’s aroma. Notice the earthy and smoky notes that intertwine with hints of citrus, spice, and floral undertones. These aromas provide a glimpse into the intricate flavor profile that awaits.

When you take your first sip, let the mezcal rest on your palate for a moment. Allow the flavors to unfold and dance on your taste buds. You may detect a harmonious balance of spices like cinnamon and clove, along with the refreshing zest of citrus. The smoky essence, a signature characteristic of many mezcals, adds depth and complexity to the overall taste experience.

Immerse yourself fully in the mezcal journey by savoring each sip, savoring the myriad of flavors and aromas that make this spirit truly unique. Explore the different expressions and varieties of mezcal, and let your senses guide you through this captivating exploration of Mexican tradition and craftsmanship.

“Mezcal is a sensory adventure that transports you to Mexico with its distinctive flavors and aromas. Take the time to savor each sip and appreciate the complexity of this remarkable spirit.” – Mezcal Enthusiast

Pouring and Serving Mezcal

When it comes to enjoying mezcal, how you pour and serve it can greatly impact your overall experience. To fully appreciate the flavors and aromas of this unique spirit, it’s important to follow a few simple guidelines.

Choosing the Right Glass

First and foremost, it’s crucial to pour mezcal into a glass with a wide mouth. This allows the aromas to be released and enjoyed to their fullest extent. Traditionally, mezcal was poured into votive glasses known as “vaso veladora.” These small glass votives allowed drinkers to enjoy mezcal “drink until you see the cross.” While using a traditional glass is not necessary, it’s best to avoid using narrow glasses or shot glasses that restrict the aromas and flavors.

Mezcal and Hydration

As you indulge in mezcal, it’s important to remember to stay hydrated. Enjoying mezcal can be a full sensory experience, and staying hydrated not only helps cleanse your palate but also prevents dehydration. Make sure to drink plenty of water between sips to keep yourself refreshed and hydrated.

Serving Suggestions

  • Mezcal is often best enjoyed on its own, sipped slowly to savor its complex flavors. Take small sips and allow the mezcal to rest on your palate for a few seconds before swallowing.
  • If you prefer a more refreshing approach, try serving mezcal over ice with a splash of soda water and a wedge of lime or orange.
  • For a unique twist, you can also experiment with mezcal in cocktails. It pairs well with citrus flavors such as grapefruit, lime, and pineapple. Try mixing mezcal with fresh juices and a touch of agave syrup for a delicious and vibrant cocktail.
  • Don’t forget to pair mezcal with food! The smoky notes and complex flavors of mezcal complement a variety of dishes such as grilled meats, ceviche, and spicy Mexican cuisine.

By pouring and serving mezcal in the right glass, staying hydrated, and exploring different serving suggestions, you can enhance your mezcal experience and fully appreciate the rich flavors and aromas that this spirit has to offer.

Mezcal Pairings

Pairing mezcal with the right foods can elevate your tasting experience and bring out the best flavors in both the spirit and the cuisine. Here are some delicious mezcal cocktail recipes and food pairings to try:

1. Mezcal Margarita with Grilled Pineapple Skewers

Combine the smoky notes of mezcal with the sweetness of grilled pineapple in this refreshing cocktail. Mix 2 ounces of mezcal, 1 ounce of lime juice, 1 ounce of pineapple juice, and 1/2 ounce of agave syrup. Shake with ice and strain into a glass over fresh ice. Serve with grilled pineapple skewers for a tasty and tropical pairing.

2. Mezcal Paloma with Spicy Watermelon Salad

For a spicy and refreshing combination, make a mezcal Paloma and serve it alongside a spicy watermelon salad. To create the cocktail, mix 2 ounces of mezcal, 2 ounces of grapefruit juice, 1 ounce of lime juice, and a splash of club soda. Garnish with a grapefruit wedge and serve with a watermelon salad tossed with lime juice, chili powder, and fresh mint.

3. Mezcal Old Fashioned with Dark Chocolate Covered Strawberries

The smoky flavors of mezcal pair beautifully with rich dark chocolate. Mix 2 ounces of mezcal, 1/2 ounce of agave syrup, and a few dashes of bitters to make a mezcal Old Fashioned. Stir well and strain into a glass over ice. Serve with dark chocolate-covered strawberries for an indulgent and decadent treat.

Mezcal Cocktail Food Pairing
Mezcal Margarita Grilled Pineapple Skewers
Mezcal Paloma Spicy Watermelon Salad
Mezcal Old Fashioned Dark Chocolate Covered Strawberries

These mezcal cocktail recipes and food pairings are just a starting point. Feel free to get creative and experiment with different flavors and ingredients to find your perfect combination. Cheers to enjoying mezcal in new and exciting ways!


So there you have it, a comprehensive guide on how to drink mezcal and fully appreciate its unique flavors. Mezcal is not just a smoky cousin of tequila; it is a versatile and complex spirit that offers a wide range of taste experiences.

By following the tips and guidelines outlined in this guide, you can unlock the pleasure of drinking mezcal. Remember to choose a mezcal with detailed information on the label, such as the producer’s name and the town of origin. Take the time to savor the flavors, letting the spirit rest on your palate. Explore the different varieties of mezcal and experiment with cocktail recipes to create your own unique mezcal experience.

Whether you prefer enjoying mezcal neat, with a slice of orange, or in a tropical cocktail, the key is to engage all of your senses. Appreciate the aromas, savor the flavors, and let the rich and complex taste of mezcal transport you to the vibrant world of Mexican culture and tradition.


Is mezcal the same as tequila?

No, mezcal is not the same as tequila. While both are Mexican spirits made from agave, mezcal has a wider range of flavors and is made from different varieties of agave plants.

How should I choose a mezcal?

When choosing a mezcal, look for information on the label, including the name of the producer, the town of origin, and the agave variety. This will give you an idea of the quality and character of the mezcal.

What are the different agave varieties used in mezcal?

Mezcal can be made from over 50 different agave varieties, including Espadín, Cenizo, Arroqueño, Tobalá, and Tepezate. Each variety offers unique flavor profiles.

How should I drink mezcal?

Mezcal is best enjoyed neat in a traditional copita or veladora glass. Take small sips and let the spirit rest in your mouth for a few seconds to fully appreciate the flavors.

Can mezcal be used in cocktails?

Yes, mezcal can be used as a base for cocktails. It pairs well with fruity flavors and can be used in tropical cocktails or in place of rum.

What is gusano salt and how can I use it with mezcal?

Gusano salt is made from ground-up larvae that live in agave plants. It has a smoky, chile-like flavor that complements mezcal well. It can be used to rim glasses or sprinkled on orange slices for a unique twist.

How does the aging process affect the flavor of mezcal?

Mezcal can fall into one of three aging categories: joven (unaged), reposado (aged), or añejo (extra aged). Aging in wood barrels adds complexity and depth to the flavor of the mezcal.

How should I pair mezcal with food?

Mezcal pairs well with a variety of foods and flavors. Oranges, lemon and lime wedges, strawberries, and tamarind are popular pairings that enhance the natural flavors of both the mezcal and the food.

Is it traditional to shoot mezcal as a shot?

No, shooting mezcal as a shot is not the traditional way to enjoy it. Mezcal is meant to be sipped and savored, allowing you to fully appreciate the flavors and aromas.

How should I pour and serve mezcal?

Mezcal should be poured into a glass with a wide mouth, such as a copita or veladora. It is best to avoid using ice or chilling mezcal, as it can mask the subtleties of the flavors.

What makes mezcal a unique and special spirit?

Mezcal is deeply rooted in Mexican culture and tradition. It offers a wide range of flavors and experiences, making it a versatile and complex spirit.

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