Mezcal has been making its way into bars across America in the past few years, but a surprisingly few amount of people know about it. Mezcal is tequila’s close cousin from Oaxaca, Mexico with a strong smoky flavor at first, and then you taste the sweet agave notes. Although it is not expensive, mezcal is an artisanal spirit that is usually made in small batches, and often from organic ingredients.
Like tequila, mezcal is created by distilling the juice from the cores of agave plants. Tequila is made with blue agave in some state in Mexico, but mezcal is from the far south and will use any of the 200 species of agave. Mezcal gets its smoky flavor from roasting the agave plant cores over flaming hot rocks in earth mounds. The cores are then crushed under a massive stone wheel and the juice is then distilled in wooden barrels or clay pots. It is a highly crafted spirit that is quickly gaining popularity. In Mexico, there are about 9,000 producers of mezcal, the majority of whom sell small batches.
When reading a mezcal label, you can determine what you are picking by checking out the distillery (as you would with any other spirit) and also the agave species used. Mezcals also come aged with famous vintages, like wines. Joven mezcal is unaged, reposado or añejo mezcals are aged. Tequila can be a sipping spirit, but really mezcal is the one you want to go for when pouring a drink into a sniffer and sipping along.
Sierra Madre Sunrise
Yield: 1 cocktail
1 oz. mezcal
¾ oz. Aperol
½ oz. lemon juice (about half a lemon squeezed)
2 or 3 dashes of chocolate bitters
3 oz. club soda
Lemon peel (garnish)
1.Fill a cocktail shaker or glass with ice.
2.Add the mezcal, Aperol, lemon juice, and bitters to the ice.
3.Shake well for about 15 seconds. If you do not have a cocktail shaker, use a second glass to create a lid over the first glass, and shake thoroughly.
4.If you use a cocktail shaker to mix the ingredients, grab a rocks glass and fill it with it ice. We recommend getting a fresh glass of ice regardless, instead of using the melted stuff left over from shaking.
5.Add club soda to the glass and strain the cocktail over the soda.
6.Add the lemon peel as garnish.