The Oaxaca Old Fashioned is an agave-based riff on the classic Old Fashioned recipe. The cocktail is named after the Mexican state of Oaxaca, where most Mezcal brands originate. The base of this cocktail is split between aged Tequila and Mezcal. -Tequila aged in barrels shows similar oaky notes like Rye and Bourbon. And by blending it with a bit of Mezcal, the cocktail gets a distinct smoky note.
This balanced recipe, created at one of the most influential bars worldwide, was one of the reasons for the Mezcal hype. By mixing it with Tequila, people new to the spirit had the chance to approach the intensely smoky taste slowly. Learn more about this exquisite cocktail and how you can make it at home.
Story of the Oaxaca Old Fashioned
When Phil Ward worked at Death & Co in New York City, he developed the recipe for what should become one of his most famous creations. The first time his Oaxaca Old Fashioned hit the bar menu of Death & Co was in 2007. And later on, he also put it on the menu of another NYC bar, the Mayahuel.
Back in 2007, few people outside Mexico knew much about Mezcal. It was new and exciting, but the smoky taste was kind of a dealbreaker for many. So Ward did an excellent job introducing the spirit to customers by incorporating and somewhat camouflaging the extreme smokiness. He decided to split the base of this Old Fashioned and use 75% of aged Tequila and only 25% of Mezcal. In measurements, this means an Oaxacan Old Fashioned only contains about half an ounce of Mezcal.
This creative take on a classic recipe was a starting point of the Mezcal craze in the US, from where it slowly but steadily spreads to the rest of the world. Today, there are countless Mezcal cocktails on bar menus. You can even find actual Mezcal Old Fashioned cocktails, entirely based on Mezcal.
A quick intro to Mezcal
Mezcal is most famous for its smoky taste. It's an agave-based spirit, just like Tequila. In fact, technically, Tequila is a specific type of Mezcal. It's typically drank neat from a copita or jicara cup.
The main difference is that Mezcal can be made of many kinds of agave from various regions. For Tequila, on the other hand, only the Agave tequilana can be used, and it must be distilled in a designated area in Mexico.
There are also some other differences. If you want to know more about it, check out our article discussing the differences between Tequila and Mezcal.
How to make an Oaxaca Old Fashioned
The Oaxaca Old Fashioned is a perfectly balanced drink. And further considering the agave-based cocktail had started the Mezcal hype, it is clear that the formula doesn't need much modification. And honestly, to me, there's no need to adjust the original recipe at all. It's well-balanced, flavorful, and slightly smoky. So here's what you need to make it.
Phil Ward mixed his best-selling cocktail with Reposado Tequila and a citrus-forward Mezcal. A Reposado Tequila is barrel-aged for up to one year and contains typical oaky notes in its flavor profile. But you could also opt for a type of Tequila that's aged for a bit longer, like an Añejo or Extra Añejo Tequila.
For the Mezcal part in the original recipe Ward used Del Maguey Mezcal San Luis Del Rio. That is a Mezcal with a beautiful flavor profile with notes of tropical fruits, citrus, and a delicate smokiness.
To sweeten the Oaxaca Old Fashioned, Ward uses agave nectar. It helps emphasize the agave notes of both spirits and works perfectly in this recipe. And a few dashes of Angostura bitters and a flamed orange peel to garnish the drink round off the cocktail.
How to flame an orange peel
Many cocktails use citrus fruit peels as a garnish because they benefit from their essential oils. Those oils are inside every citrus peel and get released by squeezing it. And by holding a lighter or a match next to the peel, you can flame these oils and add a beautiful burnt orange taste to your cocktails. If you don't know how exactly that is done, here's how to properly flame an orange peel.
- Cut a peel from your fresh oranges. A strip of 2 to 3 inches should be enough.
- Hold the peel above your cocktail and warm it with a lighter or lit match. Move a little up and down the peel to warm up all parts but don't do it too long.
- Now squeeze the peel in the direction of your match and cocktail. You'll see an instant spark followed by a brilliantly burnt orange smell.
- Then discard the peel into your cocktail to serve the drink.
Other Mezcal cocktails
The Oaxaca Old Fashioned is a delightful Mezcal cocktail, and there are many more amazing drinks based on Mezcal. My favorites are the Mezcal Negroni, Mezcal Sour, and the Mezcal Old Fashioned, as well.
And then another way to incorporate the smoky agave spirit into drinks is by replacing Tequila with classic Tequila cocktails. For instance, use Mezcal in a traditional Margarita or Paloma to create a smoky riff on a classic recipe.
- 1.5 oz Patron Reposado Tequila
- 0.5 oz Del Maguey Mezcal San Luis Del Rio
- 0.25 oz Agave nectar
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- 1 Flamed orange peel
- Add all ingredients except the orange peel into an Old Fashioned glass with a large ice cube.
- Stir the drink until it's well-chilled.
- Flame the orange peel just above the cocktail to release essential oils. Then add the flamed peel into the glass as a garnish.