Oaxaca Old Fashioned cocktail

Oaxaca Old Fashioned

By Timo Torner / Last updated on October 9, 2022 

First published on March 10, 2022 

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

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 have their distilleries. 

The base of this cocktail is split between aged Tequila and Mezcal. Tequila aged in barrels shows similar oaky notes like Rye and Bourbon. By blending it with Mezcal, the cocktail gets additional smoky notes.

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 slowly approach the intensely smoky taste. 

How to make an Oaxaca Old Fashioned

The Oaxaca Old Fashioned is a beautiful drink. To me, there's no need to tweak the original recipe. It's well-balanced, flavorful, and slightly smoky. So here's what you need to make it:

Inventor 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 can 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, Ward used Del Maguey Mezcal San Luis Del Rio. That is a Mezcal with a complex flavor profile with notes of tropical fruits, citrus, and delicate smokiness.

To sweeten the Oaxaca Old Fashioned, you need agave nectar. It emphasizes 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 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:

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

The story behind the Oaxaca Old Fashioned

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. 

Today, there are Mezcal cocktails on bar menus all over the globe and you can even get 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, Tequila is a specific type of Mezcal. The smoky liquor typically is drunk neat from a copita or jicara cup.

The main difference is that Mezcal can be made of many kinds of charred agave in various Mexican regions. Tequila is much more restricted, and the production process is slightly different.

For more, check out our Guide to Mezcal, and all you need to know about the different types of Mezcal and the differences to Tequila.

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.

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

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  • Add all ingredients except the orange peel into an Old Fashioned glass with a large ice cube.
    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.
  • 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

Nutrition

Serving: 2.5oz | Calories: 169kcal | Carbohydrates: 6.78g | Fat: 0.03g | Sodium: 0.03mg | Potassium: 1mg | Sugar: 6.68g | Vitamin C: 1.25mg | Calcium: 0.1mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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