The Oaxacans have a saying: “For every ill, mezcal, and for every good as well.” Of course, the sentiment hardly applies to mezcal alone. Substitute vodka or whiskey for mezcal and the formula works just fine. What’s different is that mezcal’s comforts and intrigues are far less familiar and all the more exciting—although the spirit’s slow rise over the last decade is changing that.
Mezcal could rightly be called the mother of tequila, since technically, tequila is a type of mezcal. Both are made from the agave plant, but the difference in flavor comes from variances in geography, agave varietals, and, most importantly, production methods. Mezcal is distilled from the hearts of the agave, piñas, which are roasted in earthen pits for several days, eventually imbuing the spirit with its distinctive smoky flavor.
That same flavor—earthy, smoky, vegetal, floral—makes serving mezcal to the uninitiated such a delight. Traditionally, it’s served straight, but mezcal’s complex taste can hold its own in cocktails, as proven by trendsetting bartenders in the last ten years. Try subbing it in a classic like the Old Fashioned, or you could mix up a Double Agent, a surprising cocktail whose head-spinning qualities are more due to its unexpected flavor profile than its alcohol content. First sips will have you wondering if you’re in the Caribbean or at a campfire. Sip a little more and the drink mellows together, the fruit juices underlining mezcal’s subtle sweetness, the bitter Campari lifting and tucking. When the last vibrant drops are gone, you won’t care where you are—Caribbean, campfire, or home on your back patio.
Makes 1 drink
1 ½ oz. Espadín mezcal
1/2 oz. mango juice
1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
1/2 oz. Aperol
1/8 oz. Campari1
dash maraschino liqueur
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake vigorously. Double-strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
Originally created by Michael Searles and Patrick Dougherty