13 Food and Mezcal Pairings Chefs Can't Get Enough Of

If you're not sipping mezcal with cheesecake or Peking duck, you're missing out.

How to Pair Mezcal With Food

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Mezcal continues to rise in popularity among U.S. drinkers, offering a diverse array of flavors that invite unique pairing opportunities for chefs and bartenders. The spirit’s earthy, smoky profile makes it an easymatch for regional staples like mole and al pastor, but chefs stateside, in Mexico, and beyond are embracing out-of-the box mezcal pairings  — mezcal with dessert? Count us in. We consulted chefs and drinks professionals from some of our favorite spots to tell us about their favorite food pairings for mezcal. Here’s what they recommended:

Orange, Cucumber, Jicama, and Chili-Lime Salt 

“In my traditional Mexican upbringing, we never paired our food with mezcal. It was always enjoyed either before the meal with orange, cucumber, jicama, and a little lime and chili salt, or after the meal with dessert. ” –Roberto Santibanez, chef/owner, Fonda, NYC

Pulled Pork Sandwiches

"There is nothing that pairs better with food than wine, and much like wine, mezcal expresses itself through its terroir and production methods. Take, for example, the beguiling complexity of a tepeztate mezcal with its spicy and intense flavors of peppercorn and cinnamon and its famously long, sweet, and floral finish — it can pair beautifully with and array of dishes from a lighter dish like a salad with apple sausage and a cinnamon vinaigrette, to something heartier such as a spiced pulled pork sandwich." –Jason Hedges, beverage director, Laurent Tourondel Hospitality, co-founder, Bar IQ


“I recently had the privilege of bringing home from Oaxaca a unique mezcal de pechuga from Puebla distilled from the papalote agave that was built to essentially act as ‘mole in a glass.’ As a pechuga, this spirit was distilled with herbs, fruits, and chicken breast, creating a rich, complex spirit. This one in particular tasted exactly like a dark, rich mole just exploding with cinnamon, anise, tropical fruits, rich chocolate, and just a little bit of char. After a long night of drinking, I had poured myself a copita to remind myself of the flavors and I looked across my kitchen counter and remembered that a friend had brought over a cheesecake that he was trying to get out of his apartment. The spirit overtook me to see what they might taste like together. Well, it was absolute magic. A piece of plain cheesecake and his explosively spiced mezcal were married like they were meant for each other. The creamy, rich vanilla and slight hint of salt and caramelized flavors in the graham cracker crust just bounced and played with the cinnamon and ripe pineapple. Vanilla and chocolate acting as the yin and yang we all know them to be. “ –Matthew Korzelius, bartender, The Roosevelt Room, Austin


​​“Offal! I can think of nothing I’d rather have alongside a few mezcals than Menudo. Spongey tripes, roasted chilies, hominy, lime, and mezcal neat is a life-affirming combination.” –– Jake Leiber, executive chef, Le Crocodile, Wythe Hotel, New York City

Brioche with Ash Goat Cheese, Honey, and Chili

“A tobalá mezcal, with its sweet notes, goes perfectly with this dessert from Huset restaurant. The ashen goat cheese paired in a great way with the light smokiness of the mezcal, and the mixture of chiles and organic honey bring out the flavors of the tobalá.” –Walter Meyenberg, owner, Hanky Panky, Mexico City

Laotian Sushi

“We serve this in the beginning of a tasting menu to wake up the palate (and the guest!), as a way to let them know that it’s going to be a fun night. Everyone likes to start a tasting menu with a shot of mezcal. There’s a sweet, salty, spicy, sour thing happening in stages when you pair all these flavors together: the sauce on the sushi has fish sauce, some sugar, roasted jalapeños, and a good dose of lime juice. It doesn’t kill you with spice, but you know it’s there. After you eat the sushi, your palate gets a refreshing shot of a little more sugar and hints of fire-roasted agave from the mezcal. The mint leaves a refreshing touch to get you ready for the next course.” –Marc Forgione, chef/owner and restaurateur, One Fifth, Peasant,  Restaurant Marc Forgione, NYC

Peking Duck

“I think a unique opportunity for mezcal is peking duck. The mix of the smoky duck and sweet bean sauce (sweet and savory flavors) lends itself to the flavors of mezcal. For me there is a specific style of mezcal called pechuga, a process where a finished mezcal is redistilled with a chicken or turkey is roasted above the still adding a unique flavor, the redistillation often also adds various fruits. This gamey style of mezcal is perfect to sipped alongside peking duck, my personal favorite is Siete Misterios.” -Cedric Nicaise, co-owner and beverage director, The Noortwyck, NYC

Peri Peri Chicken

“I absolutely love drinking mezcal with Peri Peri chicken with some corn on the cob and thick cut spiced fries. It’s somewhat unusual here on the west coast, but is more readily available on the east coast or in the U.K. In this case, chicken skin provides the fat, African chilis the spice, and vinegar for the tang. A sip of smoky and earthy mezcal rounds out the bite, producing full enjoyment.” –Guy Freshwater, beverage manager, Meadowood Napa Valley

Schweinshaxe (Bavarian Roasted Pork Knuckle)

“Mezcal for me goes really nicely with anything sweet and sour. Since the majority of mezcals have such a dry and mineral driven tenor, it makes a nice pairing with cuisines that are rich and tangy. My all-time favorite, and rather peculiar, pairing is with a traditional Bavarian dish called ’Schweinshaxe,’ which is a roasted pork knuckle. Traditionally it is served with sauerkraut and sweetened red cabbage and either salted potatoes, or potato dumplings — all with a nice, rich gravy. A clean and smoky mezcal pairs up so nicely to all of the flavors happening on the plate.” —Jan Brown, bar manager, Faccia a Faccia, Boston


“Mezcal as a category can span a lot of different flavor profiles, but in general, I really enjoy artisanal mezcal with desserts! Anything chocolatey and fruity works nicely. A lot of mezcals have a fermented, fruity quality that works great with sweets. I especially love mezcal in an Espresso Martini with a little bit of chipotle liquor!” –Joey Smith, bar director, Chez Zou, NYC

XO Sauce

“Mezcal is one of my favorite spirits to sip, and one of my favorite unexpected pairings to go alongside it is XO sauce. When the smoke from the mezcal mixes with the umami and spicy notes from the XO sauce, it truly is magical — especially when you throw a charcoal grilled steak into the mix!” –Hector Laguna, executive chef, Botanist, Vancouver 

Tomato and Chèvre Tartine

"One of my favorite pairings with mezcal is tomato and chèvre tartine. The sweet and citrusy notes of tomatoes, as well as the basil and lemon zest that we put in the chèvre goes really well with the smokiness of mezcal." –Forough Vakili, owner and chef, Le Bon Nosh, Atlanta  

Brûléed Pineapple

“One favorite pairing for mezcal for me that everybody should try is brûléed pineapple with a bit of sugar torched on top. Mezcal and pineapple in cocktails is already a good idea, so the pairing of the actual fruit with that smoke and char from the torch and the spirit make them highly compatible on the palate.” ” –Jhonel Faelnar, beverage director, NARO, Atomix, & Atoboy, NYC

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