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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Diving Deep into Mezcal, Sip by Sip
With its roots in culture and craftsmanship, mezcal is one of the most complex and varied spirits in the world.
10 Great Mezcals to Seek Out
These top-notch bottles are terrific in cocktails, and worthy of straight sipping, too.
Watermelon-Cucumber Cooler
Sweet watermelon juice complements the clean, refreshing notes in mezcal. If you can’t find store-bought watermelon juice, blend chunks of fresh watermelon and strain through a fine-mesh sieve.
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.
Get to Know Mezcal at These 4 Great Bars in Mexico City
Mexico's smoky signature spirit is becoming a household name.

Smoke Show

This refreshing cocktail gets its sweetness from pomegranate molasses (available at Middle Eastern markets) and intensely raisiny Moscatel sherry. Slideshow: More Mezcal Cocktail RecipesRecipe from Food & Wine Cocktails 2015