Smoky and intriguing – with a bit of bite
Mezcal has attitude. It’s sharper tasting than tequila (a close relative) and carries its smokiness with swagger.
So what happens when you mix mezcal with Campari and sweet vermouth? A Negroni-like cocktail with spellbinding charm.
Recipe: The Mezcal Negroni Cocktail
In Mexico, it’s traditional to drink mezcal straight. But mezcal’s haunting, smoky flavor works well in cocktails too.
The Mezcal Negroni is (no surprise) quite similar to the classic Negroni Cocktail. It’s also a bit like the Rosita Cocktail (a mixture of tequila and Campari plus sweet and dry vermouth). But smoky mezcal gives this drink a distinctive taste all its own.
Bartenders often serve the Mezcal Negroni “up” (in a cocktail glass without ice). But we prefer it served over ice in a rocks (old-fashioned) glass.
This recipe takes about 5 minutes to prepare, and serves one.
- 1 ounce mezcal (see Notes)
- 1 ounce Campari
- 1 ounce sweet vermouth (Italian red vermouth)
- orange twist or wedge for garnish (optional)
- Place all ingredients (except garnish) in a mixing glass half filled with ice. Stir until the contents are well chilled – about 30 seconds.
- Strain into an ice-filled rocks glass (or into a cocktail glass). Garnish with an orange twist or wedge, if desired, and serve.
- Why stir rather than shake? Because all the ingredients in this cocktail are clear. Shaking can create oxygen bubbles that cloud the drink.
- But shake anyway if you prefer. We often do (the oxygen bubbles disperse in a few minutes).
- Tequila is actually a form of mezcal, and both are made from the agave plant. But tequila is made only from blue agave, while mezcal can be made from over 30 different agave species.
- Most mezcal is made from espadin, the most common form of agave. But it can also be made from the tobalá, tobaziche, tepeztate, and arroqueño varieties, among others.
- Mezcal and tequila are usually made in different regions of Mexico. Mezcal comes primarily from Oaxaca, while Tequila is produced mainly in Jalisco (though both can be made in other parts of Mexico as well, and their production areas overlap somewhat).
- Tequila is usually made by steaming blue agave in industrial ovens, then distilling it.
- Mezcal tends to be made in smaller batches, often by artisanal producers. Mezcal producers generally cook agave inside stone-lined pits filled with wood and/or charcoal (often mesquite). It’s the wood smoke that gives mezcal its haunting, smoky flavor. After cooking, the agave is crushed (traditionally by a horse-powered stone wheel), then fermented and distilled.
- After distilling, mezcal can be bottled and sold as “joven” (not aged, or aged for no more than 2 months). It can also be “reposado” (aged 2 to 12 months) or “añejo” (aged 1 year or more).
- You may have heard that bottles of mezcal always contain a worm? Well, no. The “worm” is actually a moth larva from the species Hypopta agavis, which uses agave as its host plant – in other words, a caterpillar. Some bottles may have one, but most high-quality mezcals don’t.
- So how did the worm story get started? No one knows for sure. But it may have begun during the 1950s as a marketing ploy.
- Which mezcal to buy? There are many choices, but most liquor stores carry only a handful of mezcals. We suggest stopping by and asking their advice.
The Worm Turns
“Smokin’!” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “Love this drink.”
“Clásico instantáneo,” I said. “Even without the caterpillar.”
“Agave you extra credit for not including that,” said Mrs K R.
“Shall we have another round?” I said. “That bottle is mezcalling out to me.”
“Sí,” said Mrs K R. “But only one. Otherwise, we might wake up feeling like we’re crushed under a stone wheel.”
Not to mention prematurely añejo.
You may also enjoy reading about:
Tequila Sunrise Cocktail
Pisco Sour Cocktail
Or check out the index for more