How to Drink Mezcal: Key Tips for Mezcal Newcomers
by Greg Rutkowski
Mezcal is a high-quality spirit. Thus, as is often the case with high-quality spirits, there’s more than one way to drink mezcal.
For instance, you can be a purist, opting to drink mezcal by itself. Or, if you prefer your mezcal to complement other flavors, you can enjoy it in a cocktail.
This brief overview will cover both ways. If you tend to drink mezcal the pure way, you’ll learn how to savor it, and what types of mezcal glasses you might want to use. If you’re more interested in mezcal cocktails, this guide will offer some tips for choosing ingredients that pair well with mezcal’s distinct qualities.
How to Drink Mezcal: What You Need to Know About Two Common Options
The Pure Way
"Sip it, don't shoot it."
Mezcal is a very nuanced spirit. Like a fine wine, a quality mezcal combines a range of subtle notes.
That’s why many mezcal enthusiasts like to enjoy the spirit on its own. They don’t want to add anything that may distract from the mezcal itself.
If that’s how you drink mezcal, it helps to start with the right cup or glass. Traditional options include the jicara, veladora, and the newer (but no less suitable) copita.
These glasses all have their own unique qualities. That said, they have certain traits in common as well. They’re relatively small, and they tend to have wide mouths.
Those are important features. Mezcal’s robust flavor makes it the type of drink you want to sip slowly. This is key to truly savoring it. Additionally, the wide mouth of a traditional mezcal cup or glass allows the alcohol to breathe, and prevents it from overwhelming you when you tip your glass to take a sip.
It’s also worth noting that most mezcal aficionados don’t recommend drinking mezcal with ice. You only want to combine mezcal and ice if you’re drinking a cocktail.
Bonus “How to drink mezcal” tip: Find some worm salt and sprinkle it on orange slices, taking a bite between sips of mezcal. It makes a great compliment to the spirit.
In a Cocktail
You don’t need to be a purist to be a mezcal fan. It’s entirely fine to drink mezcal as part of a cocktail. In fact, many who are just starting to drink mezcal introduce themselves to the unique spirit this way.
That said, a proper mezcal cocktail can’t feature any random ingredients. The elements of the cocktail need to enhance each other.
Thus, if you’re not an experienced mixologist, you may want to start getting ideas by visiting a mixology bar that specializes in mezcal. They’ll be more likely to offer truly balanced cocktails.
However, if you want to keep it simple (and you’re low on ingredients anyway), you can always make a margarita with mezcal instead of tequila. It may not be the best mezcal cocktail in the world, but it’s still a tasty twist on a classic.
How to Drink Mezcal: Other Options
The options described above are the two most common ways to drink mezcal. Still, the point of mezcal is to enjoy it, so if you prefer another method, there’s nothing wrong with that.
For instance, while mezcal purists don’t recommend taking a shot of mezcal, as drinking it too fast doesn’t give you the chance to savor it, there’s not exactly a law saying you can’t.
Or, if you’re enjoying a long sipping session with friends (and you don’t have anywhere to be anytime soon), you can take sips of mezcal in between sips of a beer or similar beverage. This might be an option to consider if you’re just starting to drink mezcal the pure way, and find you need to balance its strong flavor with something else.
Most importantly, enjoy the experience. Learning how to drink mezcal is just the first step to becoming a genuine mezcal lover. However, it’s a very fun step.