Oaxaca Old Fashioned

By Timo Torner / Last updated on May 7, 2023

The Oaxaca Old Fashioned is a Mexican twist on the classic Old Fashioned cocktail based on Tequila and Mezcal. It wasn't invented in Mexico, as one might expect, but by a bartender in NYC.
Oaxaca Old Fashioned cocktail

The Oaxaca Old Fashioned recipe is an agave-based riff on the original. The cocktail gets its name from the Mexican state of Oaxaca, where most mezcal brands have their distilleries. 

Quick Facts Oaxaca Old Fashioned

  • Method: stirred
  • Flavor profile: boozy, dry, slightly smoky
  • How to serve it: over ice
  • Glassware: Old Fashioned Glass
  • Alcohol content: ~ 11% ABV, 15 grams of alcohol per serving

This balanced recipe, created at one of the most influential bars worldwide, was one of the reasons for the mezcal hype. The split base of aged tequila and mezcal allowed people new to the spirit to slowly get used to its smoky taste. 

Oaxaca Old Fashioned cocktail

Oaxaca Old Fashioned

A well-balanced, agave-based riff on the Old Fashioned cocktail.
Prep Time: 4 minutes
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: American
Keyword: mezcal, Tequila
Servings: 1
Calories: 169kcal
Cost: $2.20


  • 1 Jigger
  • 1 Old fashioned glass
  • 1 Peeler


  • 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 a mixing glass with lots of ice.
    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
  • Stir the drink until it's well-chilled and strain it into a chilled Old Fashioned glass over a large ice cube.
  • Flame the orange peel just above the cocktail to release essential oils. Then add the flamed peel into the glass as a garnish.
    1 Flamed orange peel


Serving: 2.5ozCalories: 169kcalCarbohydrates: 6.78gSodium: 0.03mgPotassium: 1mgSugar: 6.68gVitamin C: 1.25mgCalcium: 0.1mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Ingredients & our recommendations

The Oaxaca Old Fashioned recipe is well-balanced, flavorful, and slightly smoky. Here are the ingredients you need to make it, including recommendations:

  • Tequila: Inventor Phil Ward mixed his best-selling cocktail with Reposado tequila and a citrus-forward mezcal. A Reposado is barrel-aged for up to one year and contains typical oaky notes in its flavor profile. Try La Gritona, it's a winner. We also like a type of tequila that's aged for a bit longer - the Añejo
  • For the mezcal part, Ward used Del Maguey Mezcal San Luis Del Rio. It has a complex flavor profile with notes of tropical fruits, citrus, and delicate smokiness. If you want more smoke, we recommend Montelobos.
  • Syrup: To sweeten the Oaxaca Old Fashioned, you need agave nectar. It emphasizes the agave notes of both spirits and works perfectly in this recipe. 
  • Bitters and Garnish: A few dashes of Angostura bitters and a flamed orange peel to garnish the drink round off the cocktail.

Taste of the Oaxaca Old Fashioned Cocktail

Overall, the taste of this drink is herbaceous and boozy, with a subtle sweetness and smoky notes.

The Reposado has the, for agave spirits typical vegetal, herbaceous agave notes. Because it is barrel-aged for a short time, it also shows subtle oaky & sweet notes similar we know from other barrel-aged spirits. 

By blending it with mezcal, the cocktail gets a distinct smoky aroma. Depending on the level of smoke in you can pronounce this a little more.

When you opt for aged tequila instead, your Oaxaca Old Fashioned becomes a bit softer and mellow, with more notes of vanilla and oak.

How to Flame the Orange Peel for the Garnish

Many cocktails use citrus fruit peels as a garnish because they benefit from their essential oils. Those oils are inside the peels and get released by squeezing. 

When 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. So, here's how to properly flame an orange peel:

  • Step 1: Cut a peel from your fresh oranges. A strip of 2 to 3 inches should be enough.
  • Step 2: 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 burn it.
  • Step 3: 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.
  • Step 4: Now, discard the peel into your cocktail and serve the drink.


You can tweak the original recipe and create variations by using aged tequila instead of Reposado. If you want the mezcal to be more pronounced, try how you like increasing it from 0.5 oz to 0.75 oz.

If you cannot or don't want to use agave nectar, substitute it with rich simple syrup. Don't go for regular simple syrup because it is lower in sugar than its agave-based counterpart, and you need that sweetness to balance the other components.

Or you omit the tequila entirely and try a Mezcal Old Fashioneed, entirely based on mezcal.

The story behind the Oaxaca Old Fashioned recipe

When bartender 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, only a few people outside Mexico knew about mezcal. It was new and exciting, but the smoky taste was a dealbreaker for many. So Ward looked for a way to introduce 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. That means an Oaxacan Old Fashioned only contains about half an ounce of Mezcal - little enough to be agreeable for most people.

This creative take on a classic recipe was a starting point of the mezcal hype in the US, from where it slowly but steadily keeps spreading to the rest of the world. 

Other Mezcal cocktails

The Oaxaca Old Fashioned is a beautifully mild Mezcal cocktail, and there are many more amazing drinks based on Mezcal. My favorites are the Mezcal Negroni and the Mezcal Sour. For more smoky drinks, check out our list of the best Mezcal Cocktails.

More about Mezcal

Mezcal is most famous for its smoky taste. It's an agave-based spirit, just like tequila. In fact, tequila is a specific type of Mezcal. The smoky liquor typically is drunk neat from a copita or jicara cup. You can read more about the trending spirit

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