Food & Drink | September 24, 2016 5:00 am

Everything You Need to Know About Mezcal

(John Ewing/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
(Eye Ubiquitous/UIG via Getty Images)


With our thirst for Caribbean rum momentarily quenched, our attentions turn to one of Hunter S. Thompson’s favorite liquors: mezcal.

Mezcal, as it turns out, is a generic term for any agave-based liquor made in Mexico. Most mezcal comes from one of the eight certified mezcal-producing regions in Mexico, the most prominent being Oaxaca, and it cane be made from over 30 varieties of agave.

The distilling process for mezcal is artisanal and curiously similar to pit barbecuing. The agave is slow roasted over a wood fire made in a pit lined with volcanic rocks, which gives the final product a smoky flavor.

A worker operates a horse-pulled millstone that is used during the distillation process to make mezcal (Omar Torres/AFP/Getty Images)


One very notable exception to this is tequila, a variation of mezcal that can only be made from blue agave, which is baked in a stone oven as part of its distillation process. Either way, mezcal must be made of at least 80 percent agave to qualify as such.

Mezcal is meant to be served neat, at room temperature, but it’s also a good cocktail liquor and a major ingredient in the Palomaesque, which Dr. Thompson would have loved.

1 ounce smoky mezcal, like Del Maguey Vida Mezcal
1 1/2 teaspoons honey
1 1/2 ounces Cocchi Americano (Italian aperitif wine)
1 ounce fresh grapefruit juice
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 ounces seltzer
1/2 grapefruit wheel

Stir the mezcal and honey in a cocktail shaker until the honey dissolves. Add the Cocchi Americano, grapefruit juice, lime juice and salt. Fill the shaker with ice, then shake until well chilled. Fill a large glass with ice and add the seltzer and grapefruit wheel. Strain the cocktail into the glass and serve.

Check out’s full minute-long video on Mezcal below.