What’s the Best Palate Cleanser for Mezcal?
by Greg Rutkowski
There's no arguing that mezcal is delicious. That said, there’s also no arguing that its flavor is strong. Additionally, many mezcal enthusiasts prefer to drink it straight, without the added ingredients of a cocktail to soften mezcal’s strength.
That’s why you may be wondering, “What’s the best palate cleanser for mezcal?”
Naturally, there isn’t a single universal answer to that question. The palate cleanser you find most satisfying and effective may not be the same mezcal palate cleanser someone else prefers.
That said, mezcal fans do tend to have certain common opinions on this subject. Keep reading to learn what they consider to be the best palate cleanser for mezcal. This blog will cover the most popular choice, as well as a few other options to keep in mind.
The Best Palate Cleanser for Mezcal? Topo Chico.
An ideal mezcal palate cleanser should be refreshing, but shouldn’t be so flavorful on its own that it overwhelms the mezcal itself. This may be why many mezcal fans turn to Topo Chico as their preferred palate cleanser.
Topo Chico is a popular brand of sparkling mineral water. Like mezcal itself, it’s from Mexico.
Topo Chico is also somewhat unique when compared to other brands of sparkling water. Like all sparkling waters, it is carbonated, but its mouthfeel is much softer. In fact, actual scientists have determined there may be a few key reasons why Topo Chico is more enjoyable than other mineral waters.
For example, one sensory scientist at Monell Chemical Senses Center believes Topo Chico may be particularly refreshing because it has lower levels of carbon dioxide than other mineral waters, resulting in less of a “stinging” sensation when it hits the tongue.
Others have pointed out that Topo Chico has a lower mineral count than other options. Specifically, it has less sodium. When we taste excessive sodium, many people taste not just its saltiness, but also bitterness.
Regardless of the scientific explanations, Topo Chico’s unique qualities make it the best mezcal palate cleanser according to many. While you can of course use it for this purpose when drinking mezcal straight, if you prefer enjoying mezcal in the form of a cocktail, you can also use Topo Chico to make Ranch Water.
Ranch Water is a Texas-born cocktail that’s steadily growing in popularity. As with all cocktails, recipes vary, but a basic Ranch Water recipe involves simply rimming a cocktail glass with Tajin Clasico seasoning, squeezing half a lime into the glass, adding an ounce and a half of mezcal and three quarters of an ounce of pineapple liqueur to the glass, filling the glass with ice, and topping with Topo Chico. Stir to combine all ingredients.
Additionally, it’s worth noting that Topo Chico doesn’t come in merely one variety. If you want a simple palate cleanser that won’t overpower the mezcal itself, you’d most likely want to stick with the typical unflavored variety of Topo Chico. However, if you’re in the mood for something a little more flavorful, you can also find Topo Chico in lime and grapefruit varieties. Try each to determine which you most enjoy.
Just keep in mind that, outside of Mexico, it can sometimes be difficult to find Topo Chico depending on where you live. For example, in the US, it’s very popular in Texas, and can typically be found in major cities (particularly in areas with heavy Mexican-American populations), but may be harder to track down in rural and northern parts of the country. Luckily, you can order Topo Chico online.
Consider making a point of doing so if you can’t seem to find Topo Chico in your area. Along with being the best palate cleanser for mezcal, Topo Chico is simply a very refreshing beverage that you’ll likely enjoy for its own inherent merits.
That said, as mentioned earlier, Topo Chico is merely one option to keep in mind when choosing a palate cleanser for mezcal. It may be the best mezcal palate cleanser, but it’s certainly not the only choice you have. Other options worth keeping in mind include the following:
Orange and Tajin Clasico
It’s not uncommon for mezcal fans to sip the drink while snacking on orange slices dipped in Tajin Clasico seasoning. Like many mezcal “palate cleansers,” orange slices with Tajin Clasico may qualify more as a mezcal pairing than an actual palate cleanser, as the flavors complement one another, but the natural refreshing traits of an orange also have a genuine palate-cleansing effect.
(Tip: Some people also enjoy dipping orange slices into worm salt. Pairing worm salt with mezcal is in fact a very traditional way to enjoy the spirit. Order some if you haven’t tried this unique ingredient yet.)
Water is a standard palate cleanser for any strong spirit. Once more, Topo Chico has a gentler feel than other mineral waters, but if you’re the type of person who can’t tolerate even light carbonation, water is of course an acceptable option.
Unflavored crackers or pita chips
If you’re looking for a basic mezcal palate cleanser that you can eat instead of drink, and you don’t want something as flavorful as an orange for fear that it might overwhelm the flavors of the mezcal, consider sipping mezcal while eating unflavored crackers or pita chips.
Orange tends to be the go-to fruit of choice for use as a mezcal palate cleanser. That said, some people opt for pineapple slices instead. If you simply enjoy pineapple more than oranges, you shouldn’t feel as though you need to choose the fruit you enjoy less simply to be “traditional.” Pineapple is a perfectly suitable option.
That brings us back to our original point. At the end of the day, the “best” mezcal palate cleanser varies from person to person. While you should absolutely try sipping mezcal with Topo Chico simply to learn what all the fuss is about, you should also strive to find the mezcal palate cleanser that you feel is most enjoyable.