How Do I Drink Mezcal Straight?
Mezcal should be sipped slowly, not shot. In Oaxaca, mezcal is traditionally served at room temperature with a pinch of salt and an orange slice. Sometimes, the salt is mixed with ground fried larvae, chili peppers and salt to make sal de gusano, which means “worm salt.” (It’s delicious, for the record.)
Notable Mezcal Cocktails
Naked and Famous: Bittersweet and citrusy, this new classic made with mezcal, yellow Chartreuse, Aperol and lime juice, was invented by mixologist Joaquin Simo for Death & Company.
Mezcal Old Fashioned (Oaxaca Old Fashioned): This twist on the traditional cocktail substitutes mezcal and tequila for the usual whiskey to create a punchy, smoky flavor profile.
Pearl of Puebla: Legendary bartender and cocktail book author Jim Meehan created this drink for Please Don’t Tell in New York. Made with mezcal, yellow Chartreuse, pastis and oregano, it’s both herbal and smoky.
Mezcal in Culture
Mezcal is an important part of Mexican life, particularly in Oaxaca. The spirit is almost seen as a member of the family, rather than just something to drink. It’s massaged onto children’s rashes, used to welcome loved ones home and offers a social glue of sorts, helping to bring strangers together.
This lesson wouldn't be complete without mentioning an important cousin of mezcal and tequila: raicilla. What once was a cheap, local moonshine of sorts is now coming into its own as more and more producers are making high-end versions for market. Produced similarly to mezcal (but without any government sanctions), raicilla is distilled from wild agaves roasted in underground pits (coastal style) or above-ground ovens (sierra style). Raicilla's subtle smoky flavor makes it great for sipping or mixing in cocktails.