How to Drink Mezcal

How Should You Drink Mezcal?

Sampling Mezcal is just as much about your nose as it is your mouth. Different notes and scents will emerge from any bottle of Mezcal depending on the maturation process of the agave, or harvested agave plants that were chosen for that batch. Different distillers will elicit a different variety of floral, fruity and other flavors derived from the mineral makeup that comes forward during its roasting, milling and distillation.

Identifying your Mezcal is also an indelible part of properly enjoying it. Mezcal will fall into one of three aging categories, in order from shortest to longest process: Joven, Reposado, or Añejo. Joven Mezcals will be transparent, while Reposado and Añejo will show progressively darker shades of amber from being aged in wood barrels. Those Mezcals will harbor more notes of spices and wood.

Regardless of the type of Mezcal, which you can and should identify by inspecting or inquiring about the label on the bottle, your experience will only improve by taking time to smell your Mezcal once you’ve poured it. Mezcal can contain up to 600 flavor compounds and, although the average human has the capacity of recognizing up to 10,000 different smells, it’s easier for us to describe flavors rather than scents. Keep in mind that 80% of what we taste is the smell.

That being said, once you’re (finally) ready to taste, it’s highly recommended to take small sips, and ponder the profile with each one, letting the Mezcal rest in your mouth for 5-10 seconds. Depending on the creator’s process and the green agave plants that were harvested, you may taste a combination of spices like vanilla or clove or experience a blooming sensation of citrus, florals or herbs with each sip. And don’t forget about the smoke.

Mezcal flavor profile

Fire-roasting the agave piña (or core) brings out an unmistakably smoky profile
Keep your tastebuds ready for banana, strawberry, apple, mango and more to burst from each sip
Like gardening? Some reported flowery tastes hint of gardenias, lilies and violets
sweet & spice
The tip of your tongue may pick up notes of vanilla, nuts, caramel or honey.

Complete your authentic experience

Drinking Mezcal should be a capital E experience. In the early days of the spirit, it was almost singularly consumed as part of more solemn religious rituals. However, after European traditions came to Mexico after the Spanish conquest, Mezcal became part and parcel of parties, celebrations, family gatherings and any celebratory event. The phrase, “Para todo mal, mezcal. Para todo bien, también” became popular. It translates to “For times of illness, mezcal, and for times of wellness, too.”

Remember to pour your Mezcal into an appropriate glass. No plastic! Mezcal should only be consumed from glass with a wide mouth. A shot glass is ok – just don’t shoot it! Mezcal must be savored. Traditionally, Mezcal is often poured into votive glasses, or “vaso veladora” – coining the phrase “drink until you see the cross.”

Pair with water! Pace yourself, for your own sake and for the flavor of the spirit, and make sure to have plenty to hydrate you on hand, especially since Mezcal is traditionally consumed on an empty stomach.

But if you do want to pair your Mezcal with food, or something to enhance its natural flavors, you’ll find that it’s most often paired with oranges – the citrus interacting beautifully with Mezcal’s fruity notes. Lemon and lime wedges, strawberries and tamarind are also wonderful pairings.