Mezcal is a nuanced drink featuring a subtle blend of unique flavors. That means, like other such alcohols, mezcal should be served in certain specific vessels. Although you can still drink mezcal in the glass you have available if that’s the only option, for the best experience, it helps to drink your mezcal from one of the suggestions on this list. They’ll help you fully appreciate every sip.
The Best Mezcal Glasses
Serving mezcal in a jicara is a tradition rooted in thousands of years of history. Unlike some other types of drinking glasses, which might be used to serve a particular type of alcohol for specific tasting science reasons, there’s no real scientific reason (aside from the wide mouth) traditionalists prefer to drink mezcal from a jicara. Instead, the use of a jicara is about honoring the culture of mezcal.
There are actually two types of jicaras. Some mezcaleros will check the alcohol content of recently distilled mezcal by sucking some of it up through a piece of bamboo like a straw, then allowing the mezcal to flow into a large container. There the mezcal will release bubbles, the size of which lets a mezcalero know a batch’s alcohol percentage.
While the container used in this process is also called a jicara, a drinking or tasting jicara is much smaller. This type of jicara will usually hold no more than 1 oz. of mezcal. Its base is rounded, forcing tasters to hold it carefully to avoid spilling the mezcal inside. This may also force them to be more present in the moment, allowing them to pay greater attention to the mezcal’s qualities than they otherwise might.
It’s worth noting that a traditional jicara may not technically qualify as a mezcal “glass” because it’s usually not made of glass. The original jicara was made from the bark of the jicara fruit. Now you might use a jicara made from the types of materials used to make tea sipping cups. However, its role in mezcal culture makes including it on any list of mezcal glasses essential.
The veladora is another one of the most popular mezcal glasses. This is particularly true in authentic Mexican mezcalerias.
The shape of a veladora is that of a short candle holder. The outer surface of the glass is ribbed. Sometimes, a veladora will also include an engraving of a cross. This is because the Catholic Church was the original manufacturer of veladoras. In fact, it actually served as a candle holder in Catholic churches before it became more common to use it as a mezcal glass.
Many also prefer to serve mezcal in veladoras because of how functional and practical they are. They’re very portable and don’t break easily. On top of that, their shape allows you to enjoy the perfect amount of mezcal aromas when you take a sip, without the vapor from the alcohol being too overwhelming.
Mezcal glasses often feature wide mouths to let the mezcal “breathe.” The copita, which is a small round cup (usually made of clay or a similar material) that’s typically only an inch or so tall, has such a mouth. Like many mezcal glasses, its size is one of its most important qualities. It holds an ideal amount of mezcal for tasting, and it’s small enough that you could fit it in your pocket.
Some claim that the copita is actually an Oaxaca artifact. However, that’s probably not the case. Ron Cooper, famous for introducing mezcal culture to a wider audience, takes credit for inventing this vessel, saying he did so purely out of the need for a small sipping cup like it.
The Shot Glass
Because the best mezcal glasses tend to be small, there’s nothing entirely wrong with enjoying mezcal from a shot glass if you don’t have any of the glasses mentioned above on hand. However, it’s best to use specialty glassware designed specifically for drinking mezcal. Ideally, the shot glass should still have a relatively wide mouth.
It’s also worth noting that, even if you’re using a shot glass, you might not want to drink mezcal fast, as if you were taking a common tequila shot. Many find that mezcal tastes best when it’s savored slowly.
The Wine Glass
There are mescal glasses available from various manufacturers that resemble wine glasses. Other options include whiskey sipping vessels. For instance, the Glencairn whiskey glass boasts a design that also makes it an acceptable glass for mezcal. Again, your main goal when choosing mezcal glasses is to find a vessel that has a wide mouth and isn’t so large that you’ll feel encouraged to pour an excessive amount of mezcal.
Luckily, as mezcal becomes more and more popular, finding these various mezcal glasses is also becoming much easier than it used to be. You should try each to see which you prefer. After all, when drinking mezcal, enjoying the experience is what’s most important.