Liquor Laboratory

The Taste of Tradition: How Do Mexicans Drink Mezcal?

a man pouring over mezcal over a glass shot banner

Last Updated on December 16, 2023 by Lydia Martin

Step into the mezcal-laden world of Mexico and discover the secrets behind how Mexicans savor this timeless spirit. Curious about the rituals, flavors, and cultural significance? Join me as we delve into the captivating question: How do Mexicans drink mezcal?


What is mezcal?

Mezcal is a distilled alcoholic drink that is made from agave species, specifically the blue Weber agave plants [1].

It is often associated with Mexican culture and has gained popularity worldwide for its unique flavors and cultural significance.

What is the significance of mezcal in Mexican culture?

Mezcal holds great significance in Mexican culture as it is deeply rooted in tradition and heritage.

It symbolizes Mexican identity and is often associated with celebrations, rituals, and social gatherings.

a traditional shot of mezcal

Mezcal Tasting and Serving

How do different types of glassware and serving rituals affect the mezcal experience?

What are the differences between traditional clay cups (jicaras) and modern glassware?

Traditional Clay Cups (Jícaras)

  • Material: Jícaras are made from dried and hollowed-out gourds or calabash fruits. They have been used for centuries in Mexico and hold cultural significance.
  • Aesthetic: Jícaras has a rustic and traditional appearance, reflecting the heritage of mezcal production and consumption.
  • Impact on Flavor: Jícaras are porous, which can subtly influence the flavor of mezcal. They may absorb some of the aromas and flavors, imparting a unique character to the drink.
  • Temperature Control: Clay cups can help maintain the mezcal at a slightly cooler temperature due to their natural insulation properties.

Modern Glassware

  • Material: Modern glassware for mezcal can include various shapes and sizes, such as snifters, copitas, or stemmed glasses. They are typically made of glass or crystal.
  • Transparency: Glassware allows for a clear view of the mezcal’s color, clarity, and the formation of legs (tears) on the glass, enhancing the visual appreciation of the spirit.
  • Aroma Concentration: Glassware concentrates the aromas of mezcal, allowing for a more pronounced olfactory experience. The narrower opening of certain glass shapes can help trap and concentrate the aromas near the nose.
  • Taste Perception: The smooth surface of glassware ensures the purest taste of mezcal without any interference from the cup’s material.

How do salting and lime rituals enhance mezcal tasting?

Salting and lime rituals, commonly associated with tequila, can also be applied to mezcal. Here’s how can salting and lime rituals enhance the mezcal tasting:

  • Enhancement of Flavors: The salting and lime rituals are common practices in mezcal and tequila consumption. Licking salt from the back of the hand, followed by a shot of mezcal and biting into a slice of lime, helps cleanse the palate and intensify the flavors.
  • Contrast and Balance: The salt’s savory taste and the lime’s tanginess create a contrast to the smoky, earthy, or herbal flavors of mezcal, enhancing the overall sensory experience.
  • Refreshing Effect: The lime’s acidity and the salt’s salinity act as palate cleansers, neutralizing any lingering flavors and preparing the taste buds for the next sip.
  • Cultural Significance: The salting and lime rituals are deeply ingrained in Mexican drinking culture and traditions, adding a sense of ritual and enjoyment to the mezcal tasting experience.

How do Mexicans drink mezcal?

Mexicans have a rich and diverse culture of consuming mezcal, which offers a range of experiences depending on personal preferences and the occasion. Here is an expanded explanation of how Mexicans enjoy mezcal:

Neat (Straight)

Drinking mezcal neat is highly valued among mezcal enthusiasts in Mexico. Individuals can fully appreciate the complex flavors and aromas of the spirit by sipping mezcal neat, without any additional ingredients or mixers. 

This method allows the unique characteristics of each mezcal variety to shine through and provides a direct connection to the craftsmanship and quality of the spirit.

Shots with Lime and Salt

Tequila and mezcal are quite similar, as some Mexicans enjoy mezcal by taking shots accompanied by lime juice, worm salt, and chile peppers.

This ritual involves licking salt from the back of the hand, followed by quickly consuming a shot of mezcal and biting into a slice of lime.

The addition of salt and lime enhances the tasting experience by providing a contrasting sensation to the smoky and roasted agave spirits of mezcal.

The salt can help balance the intensity, while the lime adds a refreshing citrus note.

Mixed in Cocktails

Mezcal has gained popularity in mixology, and Mexicans embrace its versatility by using it as a base spirit in cocktails.

Mezcal cocktails, such as the “Mezcal Margarita,” “Paloma de Mezcal,” or “Mezcal Negroni,” offer a creative and diverse range of flavor combinations.

Mixing mezcal with other ingredients like citrus juices, agave plant syrup, or bitters in a cocktail shaker opens up a world of possibilities, allowing for unique and complex flavor profiles that can be tailored to individual tastes.

mezcal cocktails

Mezcal Flights and Tastings

Mezcal flights and tastings are increasingly popular in Mexico, particularly in dedicated mezcalerias and bars.

These experiences provide an opportunity to sample different varieties and brands of the best mezcal side by side.

By comparing different flavors, aromas, and textures, individuals can gain a deeper understanding of the distinction and characteristics of each mezcal.

Mezcal flights and tastings are often accompanied by knowledgeable guides who provide insights into the production process and the regional variations of mezcal.

Pairing with Food

Mexicans appreciate the harmonious combination of mezcal and food. Mezcal’s diverse flavor profiles make it a versatile spirit for pairing with various dishes.

Traditional Mexican cuisines, such as mole, tacos, ceviche, or even grilled meats, can be complemented by the smoky, earthy, and agave notes of mezcal.

The interplay between the flavors of the food and the complexities of the mezcal creates a well-rounded and enjoyable dining experience.

Celebratory Toasts

Mezcal holds a special place in celebrations, festivals, and special occasions. It is often used to make toasts, bringing people together and adding a festive touch to the moment.

Whether it’s a wedding, a birthday, or a cultural festival, mezcal toasts symbolize unity, joy, and shared experiences.

The act of raising a shot glass of mezcal in celebration creates a sense of camaraderie and a connection to Mexican traditions.

Mezcal Culture and Social Drinking

How is mezcal incorporated into celebrations and rituals?

How is mezcal consumed during Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos)?

In the time of Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) celebration in Mexico, mezcal holds a significant place and is consumed in a way that honors and pays tribute to departed loved ones [2].

Here’s how mezcal is typically consumed during this special occasion:

Altar Offerings

Mezcal is commonly included as an offering on the altars (ofrendas) created to honor deceased family members and friends.

A bottle of mezcal and glasses are placed on the altar alongside other items that hold significance to the departed souls.

It serves as a symbol of remembrance and is believed to provide a spiritual connection between the living and the deceased.

Toasts to Departed Souls

During the Day of the Dead festivities, it is customary for family and friends to gather around the altars or gravesites of their loved ones.

Mezcal is often poured into glasses, and heartfelt toasts are made in honor of the departed souls.

These toasts serve as a way to remember and observe the lives of those who have passed away, keeping their memory alive through shared stories and expressions of love and gratitude.

Shared Drinking

Mezcal is often consumed in a communal setting during Dia de los Muertos.

Family members and friends gather to share memories, stories, and laughter while enjoying mezcal together.

It fosters a sense of unity and connection as they reminisce about their loved ones and celebrate the continuity of life and death.

Calaverita de Mezcal

Calaveritas, which are small, decorative sugar skulls, are a prominent symbol of the Day of the Dead.

Some artisans create miniature mezcal bottles adorned with sugar skull designs, known as “calaveritas de mezcal.”

These mezcal bottles serve both as decorative pieces and as gifts. They can be enjoyed by sipping the mezcal within or preserved as keepsakes after the festivities.

How is mezcal consumed at weddings, festivals, and family gatherings?

Mezcal holds a significant place in weddings, festivals, and family gatherings in Mexican culture, where it is consumed in various ways to enhance the celebratory atmosphere and create memorable experiences.

Here’s how mezcal is often enjoyed during these special occasions:


Mezcal is commonly present at Mexican weddings as a symbol of celebration and unity.

It is often offered during toasts to honor the newlyweds and wish them a prosperous future.

Guests may sip mezcal neat or enjoy it in cocktails while celebrating the couple’s union.


Mezcal plays a vital role in Mexican festivals, adding a festive touch and embodying the cultural spirit of the event.

Whether it’s a regional festival or a national celebration, mezcal is often consumed as a way to bring people together and create a joyful atmosphere.

Festival-goers may enjoy mezcal shots, mezcal-based cocktails, or mezcal flights during these festive occasions.

Family Gatherings

Mezcal holds a special place in family gatherings, where it is enjoyed in a convivial and communal setting.

It serves as a social lubricant and brings relatives and friends together. During family gatherings, mezcal may be consumed neat, shared in shots, or used as a base for cocktails.

It adds a sense of conviviality and enjoyment to the gathering, fostering connections and creating cherished memories.


How is mezcal traditionally served?

Traditionally, it is recommended to drink mezcal straight or serve mezcal neat without additional ingredients or mixers. It is typically sipped slowly and savored to fully appreciate its flavors and aromas. 

While some may choose to drink mezcal as a shot, especially in social settings or celebratory occasions, the traditional and preferred method is to sip it slowly. 

This allows for a more nuanced experience, allowing the complexities of the mezcal to unfold on the palate.

Do you drink mezcal as a shot?

Drinking mezcal as a shot has become more common in recent years, particularly influenced by the popularity of tequila shots. 

However, it’s important to note that sipping mezcal slowly allows the drinker to fully engage with its unique qualities and enjoy the subtleties of the spirit. 

Taking small sips and allowing the flavors to develop on the palate is the traditional and recommended way to experience mezcal.




Lumint ad Side Bar
Flex Ad Side Bar