Causing A Stir With Agave: Six Spirit-Forward Tequila and Mezcal Cocktails

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Agave spirits, much like Mexico itself, have a complicated relationship with American drinkers. Our common association with Agave spirits is that of parties, fruity drinks, and bad decisions. Margaritas are the first, and often only drink that comes to mind when folks are confronted with the question of Agave cocktails, maybe a Paloma if they are especially well traveled and sensitive to local proclivities.

But again, like Mexico, Agave is so much more than this. Tequila and Mezcal are deeply complex, unique spirits that are very seriously tied to the culture that birthed them. They also make wonderfully complex and unique cocktails, and not just when tamed behind a curtain of citrus and soda. Here are our picks for some serious, stirred Agave cocktails that demonstrate, celebrate, and elaborate both the subtle and over-the-top qualities of Tequila and Mezcal.

Oaxaca Old Fashioned

This basic spin on the Old Fashioned template comes from New York’s Death and Co., and is one of the first drinks since Mezcal’s emergent popularity to highlight the power of a smoky Espadin Mezcal to pump up and cradle the flavors of Tequila, while still retaining its own character.

1 1/2 oz Tequila (Corazon Reposado, Cimarron Reposado)
1/2 oz Espadin Mezcal (Wahaka, Agave De Cortes)
Barspoon Demerara Syrup
3-4 dashes Mole Bitters

Build ingredients in glass with one large ice cube and stir well. Take a thin orange zest and express the oils over the drink and a lit match, so that the oils pass through the flame. Throw orange zest into drink and serve.

See the kit here!

Midnight Bouquet

This lovely nightcap from Meaghan Dorman of New York’s Raines Law Room balances the overt sweetness of an elderflower liqueur with not only the smoke and spice of mezcal and tequila, but the light bitterness of grapefruit and Averna as well, creating a strong, seductive, but responsibly balanced cocktail to say goodnight with.

1 1/2 oz Anejo Tequila (Arette, Pueblo Viejo)
1/4 oz Espadin Mezcal (Bruxo No.1, Wahaka)
3/4 oz Averna
1/2 oz Giffard Elderflower Liqueur 
2 dashes Grapefruit Bitters

Stir ingredients well with plenty of ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Express oil from a thin strip of grapefruit zest and drop in drink.

Mezcal Negroni

So far we’ve only seen Mezcal used to enhance tequila in cocktails, but it can play beautifully on its own, especially with other big flavors alongside it. The Negroni is a perfect cocktail to fill that order, especially with Mezcal Vago’s Elote standing in for an assertive gin. The Elote is made by redistilling an espadin Mezcal with roasted corn, adding a fruity, lightly sweet blanket around the rugged, smoky espadin. Pair that with Martini and Rossi’s excellent new Bitter Liqueur and Cocchi’s Quinine-bittered Dopo Teatro Vermouth and you got yourself a smoky Negroni to write home about.

1 oz Vago Elote Mezcal or Espadin
1 oz Martini and Rossi Bitter
1 oz Cocchi Dopo Teatro Vermouth

Stir ingredients with plenty of ice and strain over a large ice cube in an old fashioned glass. Express oils from orange zest and drop in drink.

Brutalista Mexicana

For this drink I used a Negroni template as a jumping off point, replacing Campari or other red bitter with the smoky rhubarb amaro Sfumato, sweet vermouth with a slightly lighter and more herbal bianco vermouth, and then I added some spiced orange liqueur as well. For the mezcal, I love the way a funky, silky Mezcal en Barro (distilled in clay) sings here, harmonizing perfectly with the other earthy elements. After mixing the first one up, I found myself perusing pictures of Mexican Brutalist architecture and thought it was a nice accompaniment, hence the name.

1 1/4 oz Mezcal en Barro
3/4 oz Amaro Sfumato
1/2 oz Del Professore Bianco Vermouth
1/2 oz Clement Creole Shrubb

Stir ingredients with plenty of ice and strain over a large ice cube in an old fashioned glass. Express oils from orange zest and drop in drink.


Meredith’s proprietary Negroni spin takes us on a fruitier trip, with tequila, rather than mezcal, behind the wheel. Alongside that smooth Anejo Tequila, the light and orangey Rinomato steps in for Campari, and classic black currant liqueur Creme de Cassis adds a deep fruity punch to the vermouth.

1 oz Anejo Tequila (Arette, Pueblo Viejo)
1 oz Rinomato
3/4 oz Martini and Rossi Rubino Vermouth
1/4 oz Merlet Creme de Cassis

Stir ingredients with plenty of ice and strain over a large ice cube in an old fashioned glass. Garnish with fresh blackberry.

Del Rio

This simple and refined number from San Francisco’s own Dalva, brings back elderflower again, along with one of our old favorites that plays particularly well with agave, sherry. Paired with a blanco tequila, this drink is primed for a less continental (or at least OTHER continental) aperitivo hour. The sweetness of the elderflower liqueur is kept well in check by the dry sherry, making the drink behave kind of like a Tequila Martini, but with that wonderful floral twist.

1 1/2 oz Blanco Tequila (Fortaleza, Chinaco)
3/4 oz Fino Sherry (Lustau)
3/4 oz Elderflower Liqueur (St. Germaine, Giffard)
3 dashes Orange Bitters

Stir ingredients with plenty of ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Express oils from grapefruit peel and drop in drink.

So there you have it. I hope that next time it’s time to whip out some agave, you don’t just stop at shaking that margarita, but stir, savor, respect, and cherish these spirits for all they’re worth! Happy mixing!

Agave Cocktail Recipe Cocktails Mezcal Patrick Smith Tequila

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