Mezcal is a Mexican spirit made from the agave plant. And even though tequila and mezcal are somewhat related, there are a number of differences. Tequila is made specifically from blue agave and can only be produced in certain areas of Mexico. Meanwhile, mezcal can be produced from any type of agave plant. Then there's the variation in the spirit-making processes. For tequila, the piñas (the heart of the agave plant) are baked in steam-heated, above-ground ovens. In the case of mezcal, they go into underground ovens over wood charcoal. This essential difference makes mezcal taste much smokier than tequila. If you want to learn more and elevate your cocktail game with mezcal, turn to Food & Wine's guide.

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Mezcal Margarita
Smoky mezcal brings depth to a classic margarita. A combination of slightly sweeter Combier and mildly bitter Cointreau balances the floral orange notes in the drink. Double the Cointreau if Combier is unavailable.
Mezcal Negroni
This riff on the classic gin and Campari cocktail has an earthy richness courtesy of smoky mezcal. Carpano Antica Formula vermouth is full-bodied and flavored with herbs and spices, lending dry, barely sweet flavor to this Negroni. Cocchi Americano and a generous citrus garnish bring a light, citrusy bite.
Oaxacan Coffee
With a float of whipped cream and just enough sweetness to temper the bitter coffee and herbal notes in the mezcal, this spiked coffee cocktail is well-balanced and fortifying. To make piloncillo syrup, simmer 1 (8-oz.) cone of piloncillo in 1 cup water in a small saucepan until dissolved, about 10 minutes.

More Mezcal

Tamarind-Mezcal Sour
Smoky mezcal and savory bitters are rounded out by sweet-tart lemon juice and tamarind puree in this punchy cocktail.
Mum's the Word
Shannon Ponche describes Mum’s the Word as “floral and indulgent but easy-drinking.” The herbal liqueur Bénédictine gives the cocktail a lovely honey flavor. Slideshow: More Mezcal Cocktail RecipesRecipe from Food & Wine Cocktails 2015