In Defense of Mezcal

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There are few things I love more than 100-percent-blue-agave tequila. I have been known to drink it in all types of creations (and even occasionally from a vuvuzela).

But in the last several years, I started an affair with another agave-based artisanal spirit: mezcal. Like many, I initially cringed at the thought of painfully shooting badly made mezcal from a bottle with a worm in it. (Sorry, Toby Keith, but please stick to music. A worm belongs nowhere near a bottle of quality liquor.)

So how does a man fall for these two related spirits? Well, just as you can enjoy single malts from both Speyside and Islay, you can do the same with tequila and mezcal.

While some say mezcal is merely smoky tequila, it’s more than that. Yes, mezcal does have smoky characteristics that come from slow-cooking the agave in traditional pits in the ground, but they vary in intensity depending upon the producer.

Climate, elevation and soil can be very different as well. And while tequila distillers can only use a single type of agave, mezcal can be made from a few dozen varieties. The end results are uniquely complex bottlings that deserve serious respect. Look out for some of my favorite brands: Del Maguey, Sombra and Ilegal.

The liquor also offers bartenders many options to make tasty libations, from original recipes to twists on classics. I added mezcal to the Port Wine Cocktail #2, which I found in The Savoy Cocktail Book. Another good one to try is my mezcal variation on a Sour.

And when drinking mezcal, remember the ancient Zapotec toast “stigibeu,” which is a salute to your health, the health of your friends and the life of the planet, Mother Earth. Now that’s something everybody can love.

Port Wine Cocktail #3

Contributed by Jacques Bezuidenhout

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1.25 oz Del Maguey Vida Mezcal
  • 1.25 oz Fonseca Bin No. 27 Port
  • 2 tsp Grand Marnier
  • 1 dash Angostura Bitters
  • 1 dash Angostura Orange Bitters
  • Garnish: Orange twist
  • Glass: Cocktail

PREPARATION:

Add all the ingredients to a mixing glass and fill with ice. Stir, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

This recipe is adapted from the Port Wine Cocktail #2 in The Savoy Cocktail Book.

Maguey Sour

Contributed by Jacques Bezuidenhout

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 oz Del Maguey Santo Domingo Albarradas Mezcal
  • .5 oz Bénédictine
  • .75 oz Fresh lemon juice
  • .5 oz Almond orgeat
  • 2 tsp Egg white
  • Garnish: Grated nutmeg and orange twist
  • Glass: Old Fashioned

PREPARATION:

Add all the ingredients to a shaker and fill with ice. Shake, and strain into an Old Fashioned glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with grated nutmeg and an orange twist.

Jacques Bezuidenhout is a national cocktail and tequila ambassador for Partida Tequila and the master mixologist for Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants. He is also a Liquor.com advisor.

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