Episode #017 – Mezcal


Mezcal is known as the smokier cousin of the more well-known tequila, and the difference can be a bit more confusing. One of our listeners requested an episode exploring this complex agave-based spirit, and we’re more than happy to oblige. Especially since we’re such big fans of the concoction.

So first things first, all tequila is mezcal, but mezcal is not tequila. They are both made from agave, a cactus-like (but not actually a cactus) plant, and both made in Mexico. Tequila is a subset because it uses a particular kind of agave (blue agave), while mezcal can use any variation of 11 types of agave. Further, mezcal is roasted underground, while tequila is not cooked. It is this latter process that gives them the distinct flavor difference, similar to the difference in flavor profiles of Highland Scotch (lighter and fruitier) and Islay Scotch (heavy smoked peat flavor). While this isn’t a perfect analogy, we find it helpful to think of it in that way.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • The basic difference between mezcal and tequila
  • How to use the difference to create new and interesting cocktails
  • A few of our favorite brands
  • Cocktails to feature with your newfound love of mezcal


La Vida Mezcal (Smoky Negroni)

  • 1 oz mezcal
  • 1 oz sweet vermouth
  • 1 oz Campari
  • Orange garnish

I Left My Heart in Acapulco Mezcal Sour

  • 1 1/4 oz mezcal
  • 1/4 Cynar
  • 1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz agave nectar (or thyme-infused simple syrup)
  • 2 dashes orange bitters

Mezcal Paloma

  • 1 1/2 oz mezcal
  • 1/2 oz fresh lime juice
  • 2 oz grapefruit soda
  • Grapefruit half-wheel garnish
In addition to the above cocktails, you should absolutely play around with mezcal in virtually any other style of cocktail, include an Old Fashioned, Mezcalarita, or any number of combinations for a Sour.

Select Mezcals

  • Del Maguey Vida (~$35): smoke, agave, earthiness
  • Fidencio 80 or 89.4 proof (~$35): herbaceous, nutty
  • Tosba Espadin ($40): spice, smoke, caramel
  • Pierde Almas La Puritita Verda ($40): MInerality, strong agave

Other Features:

More on Tequila vs. Mezcal

From Vogue: Move Over, Tequila: Why Artisanal Mezcal Is on the Rise

From Food Republic (penned by Jeffrey Morgenthaler, one of our all-time favorite bartending bloggers: What Does TV’s Jon Taffer Really Know About Bar Science? – Recently, Jon Taffer, the host of the TV show Bar Rescue, said that mezcal was made from the same stuff as mescaline. Which it is absolutely not. So this is a juicy open letter, but also hits some key bartending points. And please, stay away from mescaline.


“Para todo mal mexcal, y para todo bien, tambien.”

“For ever ill, Mezcal, and for every good as well.”

UPDATE: Listener Submitted Cocktail: Peach Fire

We should have guessed that this episode, which was inspired by one of our listeners, would inspire some of our other listeners to make some drinks! We loved this one shared by @thebarlesstender on Instagram: The Peach Fire.


  • 1.5oz Joven Mezcal
  • .75oz Amaro
  • .75oz Orange Torres
  • 1oz Lime Juice
  • Lots of Fee Brothers Peach Bitters
Thanks for the submission, @thebarlesstender! We love it, and we’d love to see more! Remember to tag your creations with #ToBeingABetterDrinker!