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How to Drink Mezcal Properly: Expert Guide (2024 Best Edition)

How to Drink Mezcal 

Last Updated on March 23, 2024 by Lydia Martin

Mezcal is gaining popularity worldwide for its distinct smokiness, natural congeners, and essence of drinking a handcrafted spirit.

It has similar roots to tequila, but these agave spirits can be enjoyed in different ways.  

If you want to know how to drink Mezcal and maximize your experience, keep reading.

7 Ways To Drink Mezcal Like A Pro (According to Experts) 

pouring mezcal on a glass

1. Choose Traditional Mezcal Glasses

While we’re used to using a “shot glass” with sipping Mezcal, we suggest using the traditional Mezcal glasses– a short stout with a broad opening. 

Some of these drink glasses are made with black clay from Oaxaca, and we don’t recommend using this as it’s naturally finished and shouldn’t be in contact with water.

Use glasses made with dried jicara or calabash. 

In Oaxaca, people guzzle over the cross, and that’s the tradition that originated from the country’s Catholic heritage.

When it comes to drinking Mezcal, the goal is to have the aromas hang out around you and recognize each note.

But this can be hard to do since all the scents are released simultaneously as you pour the liquid.

There’s no problem with spirits aged in wood, as the drink’s elements balance its profile.

However, for unaged Mezcal, it’s best to have it in a bowl-like vessel such as a copita.

2. Start With A Mezcal Papalote Or Espadin 

Now you have the glass ready, pick the bottle of Mezcal you’ll want to sniff.  

According to experts, start with a Papalote or Espadin, native agave spirits from the Lower Guerrro mountain and Oaxaca central valleys (in Mexico), respectively. 

Particularly, Espadin is widely accessible at bars, loved by many drinkers for its neutral flavor profile: pleasant aroma, delicious palate, and smooth finish—delivering different flavors Mezcals can have.  

3. Taste The Same Type Of Mezcal Across Or Even Regions

Hand Holding Glass of Mezcal

As Aleks Medina claims, any Mezcal drink should try the same Mezcal brands or cocktails across different regions. 

“All the agaves have different expressions, and the regions where they reproduce also bring different flavors.”

— Aleks Medina, Sabina Sabe Bar Manager in Oaxaca, Mexico

Drinking Mezcal in various places can get you to experience the diversity of flavors.

Like wine, Mezcal (and tequila), climate, soil type, elevation, and the agave plants used impact Mezcals’ tasting notes (flavors, aromas). 

4. Look For Mezcals With High ABV

It’s required that Mezcal be distilled [1] at least twice to achieve a minimum alcohol level of 36-55%. 

The range from 45-55% of alcohol is where the drink has enough alcohol to develop its aromas and flavors. 

Actually, most of these drinks in the US are below this benchmark, which is around 40-43% ABV. 

While some brands at the lower end of this range provide great quality without losing any flavor, we recommend smokier Mezcals, like Rey Campero Espadin, Real Minero Largo, and Jabali. 

5. Chill The Glass, Pour Mezcal & Sip It

Mezcal on a Shot Glass

One way to fully savor an agave plant-based spirit, like Mezcal and tequila, is chilling the glass before pouring the liquid. 

But, of course, you sip it clean to entirely enjoy its flavor and taste. Have a small sip (with a bit of water, if preferred) to cleanse your palate and quench your thirst. 

6. Choose How It’s Served

Neat

As mentioned, drinking Mezcal neat is the best way to enjoy this spirit, as most drinkers do with gin. 

Try sipping it neat if you want to experience the smoky, vegetal, and fruit notes with some roasted agave hints of Mezcal. 

Creative Cocktails

If your taste buds aren’t used to drinking this aclohol, you better mix them with other beverages to make Mezcal cocktails. 

You can make Margarita with Mezcal [2], which can be a starting point for beginners. 

Shots

Like other liquor types, you can have Mezcal as a shot, like when you’re enjoying tequila. This goes well with salt and lemon, as well. 

On The Rocks

If you don’t want this drink in a cocktail but want to enjoy it chilled, then have it on the rocks. 

Adding ice spices up your experience without any ingredient overpowering the agave notes. 

7. Drink It With Mixers

2 glasses of Mezcal Margarita

The same as in a cocktail, you can enjoy Mezcal on its own but with a mixer on the side or chaser. We recommend the following: 

Orange

Be it orange juice or orange fruit, this alcohol tastes great, along with citrus notes. The sweet and sour notes of orange slight tone down the bitter hints of Mezcal.  

Lime

This mixer is usually paired with Mezcal and tequila with salt. Whether you want the lime juice or half wheel, you’ll surely be left wanting more. 

Salt 

As mentioned above, this drink goes well with salt. It balances Mezcal’s bitter, fruity, and earthy notes, especially if there’s a lemon or any citrus-tasting food.  

How Do You Drink Mezcals With a Worm? 

While you can enjoy one with a worm if you’re brave enough, we don’t recommend drinking a bottle with worms. 

If you want to consume Mezcal the traditional way, try worm salt or sal de gusano instead. Some locals in Mexico serve worm salt fried and served with tacos along with the distilled drink. 

Popular Opinion: There is no clear explanation for how the worm trend started. Some believe it was a marketing technique used to show that Mezcal is fit to drink, while others think it was a way to impart flavor. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

How is mezcal supposed to be drank?

Mezcal is traditionally sipped neat from a copita, a small clay or glass vessel. It’s customary to take small sips to savor its complex flavors and aromas.

Some aficionados prefer to accompany mezcal with a slice of orange sprinkled with sal de gusano (a mixture of salt, chili, and ground agave worms), which enhances the tasting experience by providing contrasting flavors and cleansing the palate between sips.

Additionally, mezcal enthusiasts often enjoy it with slices of fresh fruit or alongside traditional Mexican snacks like chapulines (grasshoppers) or quesadillas.

What is the best way to enjoy mezcal?

The best way to enjoy mezcal is ultimately a matter of personal preference, but many enthusiasts recommend savoring it neat to fully appreciate its distinct flavors and aromas.

Drinking mezcal slowly allows one to experience its complexities, ranging from smoky and earthy notes to hints of fruit and spice. However, some may prefer mezcal cocktails for a more varied taste experience.

Classic cocktails like the Mezcal Margarita, Oaxaca Old Fashioned, or Paloma are popular choices, as they showcase mezcal’s versatility while complementing its unique characteristics.

Experimenting with different serving methods and pairings can also enhance the enjoyment of mezcal, whether it’s trying it with different foods or exploring creative cocktail recipes.

What is best to mix with mezcal?

Mezcal’s robust and distinctive flavors make it a versatile spirit for mixing into cocktails. While some purists may prefer to drink mezcal neat, others enjoy it in cocktails that highlight its smoky character and depth.

Classic mezcal cocktails like the Mezcal Margarita, made with mezcal, lime juice, agave syrup, and a salted rim, are beloved for their balance of sweet, sour, and smoky flavors.

Similarly, the Oaxaca Old Fashioned, which substitutes mezcal for bourbon in the traditional recipe, offers a sophisticated twist on a timeless favorite.

For those seeking a lighter option, the Paloma—a refreshing blend of mezcal, grapefruit soda, lime juice, and a pinch of salt—provides a bright and effervescent alternative.

Additionally, mezcal can be used creatively in cocktails, such as in spicy concoctions like the Mezcal Mule or fruity libations like the Mezcal Berry Smash. Experimenting with different ingredients and flavor profiles allows mixologists to craft unique and delicious mezcal cocktails to suit any preference or occasion.

Ultimately, the best mixer for mezcal depends on individual taste preferences and desired flavor profiles, so feel free to explore and innovate to find the perfect combination for you.

Do you drink mezcal on the rocks?

Drinking mezcal on the rocks is not a common practice, as the ice can dilute its complex flavors and aromas. Mezcal is typically enjoyed neat or in cocktails to fully appreciate its distinct characteristics.

However, some individuals may choose to serve mezcal over ice if they prefer a colder drink or wish to slightly mellow its intensity.

It’s essential to note that personal preference ultimately dictates how one enjoys mezcal, so if drinking it on the rocks enhances your experience, feel free to do so.

Is mezcal stronger than tequila?

Mezcal and tequila both originate from Mexico and are distilled from agave plants, but they differ in production methods and flavor profiles. Mezcal is typically made from various species of agave, whereas tequila must be made specifically from blue agave.

In terms of alcohol content, mezcal and tequila generally have similar alcohol by volume (ABV) percentages, typically ranging from 38% to 50%.

However, mezcal often has a more pronounced smoky flavor due to its production process, which involves roasting the agave hearts in underground pits.

Therefore, while mezcal and tequila may have comparable alcohol strength, mezcal’s flavor profile may be perceived as stronger or more intense by some individuals.

Is mezcal bad for your liver?

As with any alcoholic beverage, excessive consumption of mezcal can have negative effects on liver health. Regular and heavy alcohol consumption over time can lead to liver damage, including conditions such as fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, and cirrhosis.

It’s essential to consume mezcal and other alcoholic beverages in moderation to minimize the risk of liver-related health issues.

Moderate alcohol consumption, defined as up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men, may not significantly harm liver health for most individuals.

However, factors such as individual health status, genetic predispositions, and overall lifestyle habits can influence how alcohol affects the liver. If you have concerns about your liver health or alcohol consumption, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional for personalized guidance and recommendations.

Should I refrigerate mezcal?

Mezcal does not require refrigeration, as it is a distilled spirit with a high alcohol content that acts as a preservative. Storing mezcal in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight is sufficient to maintain its quality.

Additionally, extreme temperatures, whether hot or cold, can potentially alter the flavor profile of mezcal over time.

Therefore, it’s best to store mezcal at room temperature and tightly seal the bottle to prevent evaporation and oxidation, which can affect its taste and aroma.

Do you mix mezcal with anything?

Mezcal’s complex flavor profile makes it a versatile spirit for mixing into cocktails. While some purists prefer to enjoy mezcal neat to fully appreciate its distinct characteristics, others enjoy it in cocktails that highlight its smoky depth and complexity.

Classic mezcal cocktails like the Mezcal Margarita, Oaxaca Old Fashioned, and Paloma are popular choices, as they balance mezcal’s smoky notes with complementary ingredients like citrus, sweeteners, and bitters.

Additionally, mezcal can be used creatively in a variety of cocktails, from spicy concoctions like the Mezcal Mule to fruity libations like the Mezcal Berry Smash.

Experimenting with different mixers, herbs, fruits, and spices allows bartenders and enthusiasts to craft unique and flavorful mezcal cocktails to suit any palate or occasion.

Do people drink mezcal straight?

Yes, many people enjoy drinking mezcal straight, also known as “neat,” to fully experience its complex flavors and aromas. Sipping mezcal neat allows one to appreciate its smoky, earthy, and sometimes fruity or floral notes without the dilution or interference of other ingredients.

Traditionally, mezcal is served in small clay or glass vessels called copitas, which are designed to concentrate the aromas and flavors of the spirit.

Some mezcal enthusiasts prefer to accompany it with slices of orange sprinkled with sal de gusano (a mixture of salt, chili, and ground agave worms) to enhance the tasting experience. Others may enjoy mezcal alongside traditional Mexican snacks like chapulines (grasshoppers) or quesadillas.

Ultimately, whether mezcal is enjoyed neat or mixed into cocktails depends on personal preference and the desired drinking experience.

Why do people drink mezcal?

People drink mezcal for various reasons, including its unique flavor profile, cultural significance, and social aspects. Mezcal offers a complex sensory experience characterized by smoky, earthy, and sometimes fruity or floral notes, which many enthusiasts find appealing. Its production process, which often involves artisanal techniques and traditional methods passed down through generations, adds to its allure.

Additionally, mezcal holds cultural significance in Mexico, where it has been produced for centuries and is deeply intertwined with rituals, celebrations, and social gatherings.

Drinking mezcal can also be a communal experience, bringing people together to share and appreciate the spirit’s nuances while fostering connections and conversations.

Overall, people drink mezcal for its distinctive taste, cultural richness, and the sense of enjoyment and camaraderie it brings.

What to eat when drinking mezcal?

When drinking mezcal, pairing it with complementary foods can enhance the tasting experience and provide balance to its flavors.

Traditional Mexican snacks like sliced oranges sprinkled with sal de gusano (a mixture of salt, chili, and ground agave worms) are often enjoyed alongside mezcal, as the acidity of the fruit and the savory-spicy seasoning can complement its smoky and earthy notes.

Additionally, mezcal pairs well with various foods, including cheeses such as Oaxaca cheese or panela, which offer creamy textures and mild flavors that contrast nicely with the spirit’s intensity.

Other options include snacks like chapulines (roasted grasshoppers), which provide a crunchy texture and savory-salty taste that complements mezcal’s complexity.

Ultimately, the best foods to eat with mezcal depend on personal preferences and regional culinary traditions, so feel free to experiment with different pairings to find what suits your palate.

How do you drink mezcal at home?

Drinking mezcal at home can be a simple and enjoyable experience, whether you prefer it neat or in cocktails. To drink mezcal neat, pour a serving into a small clay or glass vessel called a copita.

Take small sips to savor its flavors and aromas, allowing the spirit to linger on your palate to fully appreciate its complexity. Some people enjoy accompanying mezcal with slices of orange sprinkled with sal de gusano or traditional Mexican snacks like chapulines or quesadillas.

If you prefer mezcal cocktails, there are numerous recipes to explore, ranging from classic options like the Mezcal Margarita and Oaxaca Old Fashioned to more creative concoctions featuring fruits, herbs, and spices.

Experiment with different mixers and garnishes to create your own signature mezcal cocktails at home. Remember to drink responsibly and enjoy mezcal in moderation to fully appreciate its qualities while maintaining a healthy balance.

So, How to Drink Mezcal?

With all the ways to enjoy any Mezcal brand – sipping it neat can give the most satisfying and great experience.

Not just because it’s the locals and traditional way of consuming this alcohol, but it’s the best way to savor Mezcal’s pure and delicious character.  

If this is your first time trying this liquor, then you don’t want to make your “first mistake” by not maximizing the potential of Mezcals.  

References:

  1. Mezcal Production in Mexico: Between Tradition and Commercial Exploitation
  2. Mezcal
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