Even though mezcal is traditionally served straight and tastes perfectly delicious on its own, the Mexican spirit is also incredible in cocktails. A tasty mezcal tipple doesn’t require professional bartending experience or fancy homemade syrups. In fact, these mezcal cocktails are so easy and delicious, you could practically mix them with your eyes closed (though you’d probably make a mess). Here, six simple, two-ingredient cocktails to make with mezcal.
Mezcal + Lager
While this might seem a bit odd or a waste of good mezcal, it is actually a sensational combination. The lightness of the lager elevates the brighter, fruiter notes in espadín mezcals while allowing their complexities to shine through. The beer’s yeasty maltiness also softens mezcal’s savory notes and slightly subdues its smokiness. If you add a wedge of citrus, whether it be an orange, lime or grapefruit, it makes the drink even more vibrant and tropical. We also recommend a wedge of pineapple to garnish this ersatz Shandy.
Mezcal + Seltzer
This is one of most popular mezcal pairings, especially in Texas where it is called Ranch Water. The type of seltzer and mezcal you use will dramatically change the flavor of the cocktail. We prefer seltzers that have a higher mineral content like Topo Chico, or seltzers that have salt in their formula, like Q. When it comes to choosing a mezcal for this pairing, opt for more mineral-heavy, floral or fruity spirits that are less smoky or savory—typically an espadín. Some of the best bottles to pair with seltzer are Banhez, Vida and Fidencio Clásico. Garnish this cocktail with a half rim of Tajín Clásico and a wedge of your preferred citrus.
Mezcal + Grapefruit Soda
Essentially a Paloma, albeit with mezcal instead of tequila and no lime juice, this combination is absolutely stellar. It is bright, citrusy, subtly bitter, refreshing and the best way to beat the heat. When concocting this cocktail, choose a mezcal that is herbaceous in flavor. Smokier mezcals—like Montelobos—are also wonderful when paired with grapefruit soda. Other bottles that we like are Yola, Alipus San Juan del Rio and Casamigos. For grapefruit soda, try either Jaritos or Squirt, both of which are common mixers in Mexico. It’s always best to buy glass bottled Mexican Squirt because it’s made with real sugar.
Mezcal + Ginger Beer
Also known as a Mezcal Mule or a Mexican Mule, this two-ingredient cocktail is essential for anyone who loves ginger’s pungently spicy kick. Mixed together, mezcal and ginger beer harmonize to create a cocktail that is smoky, earthy, herbaceous and spicy. When mixing this drink, it is essential to use an espadín that is not overwhelmingly smoky, savory or fruit-forward. Bottles that we typically use for this cocktail are herbaceous or mineral heavy, like Casamigos, Vida or Ilegal. As far as ginger beer goes, the spicier the better—try Barritt, Reeds or Fever Tree.
Mezcal + Celery Soda
Celery and mezcal is a match made in cocktail heaven. The vibrantly green vegetable brings out the best flavors inherent to mezcal—especially in more herbal, verdant bottlings. Made with celery seed, which is even more herbaceous than the juice, celery soda and mezcal make an incredibly tasty savory cocktail. When choosing a mezcal, stick to espadíns that are more savory or herbal (our two favorite bottles to use are Banhez and Vida).
Mezcal + Salt
One of the best pairings with mezcal also happens to be the easiest. Salt heightens the flavor of any mezcal. In Mexico, mezcals are typically served with sal de gusano—a salt made with ground chile and ground dehydrated moth larva—and either orange slices or fresh guava. If salt made with worms is too strange for you, opt for a higher quality salt like Maldon. We sometimes even pair mezcal with a smoked sea salt, which further enhances the spirit’s natural smokiness.