How to drink Mezcal

7 Tips on how to drink Mezcal the right way

By Timo Torner / Last updated on October 10, 2022 

First published on March 25, 2022 

Mezcal is a complex and bold spirit. If you're an avid Tequila sipper and are confronted for the first time with a Mezcal, you might be surprised by the smoky flavors. And just as the taste differs, so does the way you drink Mezcal.

Tequila and Mezcal are not the same and should be consumed differently. And here you can read how. Just follow our seven tips on how to drink Mezcal.

By the way, the flavors of Mezcal strongly depend on the agave used, the area where the plant grew, how long the spirit aged, and the production method. You can find most of this information on the label of a Mezcal bottle. If you are unsure about the descriptions, check out our article about the different types of Mezcal

1. Start with Espadín

If you're new to Mezcal, you don't want to overspend and buy an expensive bottle just to find out, it's not your thing. 

Start with a solid Espadín Mezcal. Espadín stands for the variety of agave used for producing the spirit. Around 85% of all Mezcals are made from that species. 

Therefore, there are plenty of options, often at reasonable price points. There are numerous agave varieties, and sometimes Mezcal contains a mix of multiple types.

Yet, as I mentioned, the taste not only depends on the agave but also on other aspects. So already within Espadín, you can find a wide range of flavors.

2. Use a copita or jicara

Once you have picked a Mezcal, choose your drinking vessel. A standard shot glass will do, but to really pick up the complex flavors and aromas, opt for a traditional copita or jicara. 

These small cups are the traditional way to consume Mezcal and come in various forms and materials. It can be from clay, ceramic, glass, and many others.

The most important aspect of the copitas is their wide opening. This way, your nose is close to the spirit, and you can smell the different aromas while sipping. That also immensely affects the taste and experience.

Traditional Jicara cups

In Oaxaca, you can also find another typical vessel: the so-called jicara or jicarita cup. Jicaras are made from the shell of the Calabash tree. Each is unique, and they come in different sizes naturally. 

Usually, they're 1.5 inches deep and 2 to 3 inches in diameter. Drinking Mezcal out of a jicara is a must if you have the chance to do it.

The only problem is that jicarita cups are not that robust. So if you plan to buy a copita or jicara for drinking Mezcal at home, choose a copita.

3. Drink Mezcal neat and at room temperature

The best way to serve Mezcal is neat and at room temperature. Then, the spirit can unfold its entire flavor profile, and you can enjoy the array of different notes. 

To explain this further: like other sipping spirits, e.g., Bourbon or aged Rum, Mezcal contains natural congeners. Those are responsible for bringing the flavor and work best at room temperature. 

If you refrigerate your Mezcal, the congeners will dull and only come back to life when the spirit warms up. So don't put your Mezcal in the fridge.

And you also don't add ice or water to the spirit. So, please don't serve Mezcal on the rocks. Just drink it neat. If, at all, you need something to accompany your Mezcal, enjoy the traditional snacks served with it.

4. Snacks dusted with Sal de Gusano

In Mexico, particularly in Oaxaca, you often get a small plate with snacks to go with your Mezcal. Usually, oranges, grapefruit, jicama, and carrots. 

Those snacks come dusted with a special salt - the Sal de Gusano, also known as worm salt. 

Gusanos del maguey is the name of the worm living in agave plants. And Sal de Gusano is made by mixing regular salt with ground chiles and dried ground larvae of that worm.

That may sound strange, but I can assure you it pairs just perfectly with the smoky agave spirit. 

5. Choose the right level of smoke

Mezcal is famous for its smoky taste because beginners, in particular, can be overwhelmed by that smokiness. But Mezcal is much more complex, and also, the level of smoke varies a lot.

You can get bottles with just a hint of smoke, while others are pretty in-your-face with their super high level of smokiness. 

If you're a fan of the smoky taste, try the Montelobos Mezcal Joven. And if you want to start low on smoke El Silencio Espadín.

6. Sip don't shoot

Tequila is often consumed as a shot. And since many compare Tequila to Mezcal, Mezcal shots are also becoming a regular sight common. But this spirit is supposed to be slowly sipped. -One sip at a time.

7. Try to drink Mezcal in cocktails

If drinking Mezcal neat is too much, using it in cocktails is a fantastic idea. Mezcal cocktails often are riffs on classic Tequila drinks. You only have to substitute one with the other. 

However, Mezcal can be more than just a Tequila replacement. Of course, there's nothing wrong with a delicious Mezcal Margarita or Mezcal Paloma. But limiting it to this doesn't do it justice.

Mezcal Sour cocktail

My favorite Mezcal cocktails at the moment are the Mezcal Sour and Mezcal Negroni. Our Mezcal Sour recipe is a unique take on a sour cocktail based on the smoky agave spirit. With the help of Italian Amaro, the Mezcal creates a rich and complex flavor profile.

In a Mezcal Negroni, Mezcal replaces Gin. And even though that might sound a bit off, a Mezcal Negroni is a real treat for lovers of Negroni and Mezcal alike.

If you're more into Old Fashioned, you can also check out our take on a Mezcal Old Fashioned. The closest to drinking Mezcal straight without actually doing so.

How to Drink Mezcal Faqs

How to store Mezcal?

Like with other spirits, you can increase the shelf life of a Mezcal by storing it in a cool, dark, and dry place. -Not the fridge or the freezer, though, because that will spoil the taste.

How to drink Mezcal straight?

It's best to serve Mezcal neat at room temperature in a copita. Serve it along with a slice of orange dusted with worm salt.

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