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
wow Those photos are stunning, John. You really should write your cocktail books.
Hi Angie, aw, thanks for that very kind comment!
I agree with Angie , you should write a cocktail book. Occasionally I enjoy a drink made with Campari. I have been making a light version of the Negroni cocktail by leaving the gin out. It’s not bad ! Prost!
Hi Gerlinde, the traditional Negroni (with gin) is one of our favorite cocktails, but this is better. Mezcal is wonderful in this drink! Thanks for the comment.
Beautiful shot John...but hope you steer clear of the Negroni aficionados that harass me. Negroni with Mezcal? Sacrilege! :)
I try to be nice to them; I get that they are stuck in a rut and we prefer some creativity...so there! You know my story, Campari is not a fave but maybe I would prefer the balance with a smoky Mezcal?
There's a fascinating book about uses of the agave plant. See
Your recipe looks good, though as always I am missing all the key ingredients and also the bar ware to do mixed drinks.
best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com
Hi Barb, it took us forever to swap out the gin for mezcal in this drink, and we're SO glad we finally got around to it. Best. Negroni. Ever. :-) You should try Campari with mezcal -- they're made for each other. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Mae, sounds like a fun book -- need to check it out. This is one of those drinks that I might try in a restaurant first -- just so I don't have to invest in a bottle of mezcal. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I have those same glasses! They make cocktails look so nice. This one looks delicious.
Hi Pam, it's a wonderful drink! And those glasses are fun, aren't they? Thanks for the comment.
You had me at mezcal, John. We have all the ingredients—I think we'll be trying this tonight.
This is great, my son and daughter-in-law brought back some mezcal from Oaxaca. I will share this with them.
Hi Terry, I know you guys really like mezcal. Bet you'll like this -- it's a terrific drink. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Pat and Dahn, make sure they share this drink with you! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Holy crap I LOV that idea of a combo! Love Negroni and yes nice with mezcal I am sure. Had a few mezcal cocktaisl in Mexico.
Hi Evelyne, we love the negroni, and it's even better with mezcal. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I was introduced to mezcal a few years ago, and love it...thanks for this awesome cocktail John!
Have a great rest of the week!
Hi Juliana, isn't mezcal good stuff? Love its smoky flavor! Thanks for the comment.
I love the addition of campari, I think it is an underused spirit with a good flavour. Another wonderful creation of yours to try thanks John :D
My friend who owns a Mexican restaurant introduced me to Mezcal and I never looked back. I got a bottle of it right away. The smoky flavor is so unique and delicious!
Hi Merryn, Campari is terrific! Love its flavor. And mezcal, too. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Ashley, mezcal is magic, isn't it? Love it! Thanks for the comment.
We have never tried this drink but now we really want to. Can't wait to try that slightly smokey flavor. Have a super week ahead.
well i'm not really a cocktail kind of gal but this looks intriguing KR. as usual, love your photos and your banter. loved all the history of tequila etc. i don't think i've ever had tequila actually... one day i must fill in my drinking gaps:-) cheers S
Not sure if I've ever tried Mezcal. Love the idea of the smokiness. Sounds like it creates a hefty cocktail. It sure is pretty.
Hi Bobbi, smoky cocktails are good! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Sherry, probably the best tequila drink is the margarita -- those are really good. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi MJ, mezcal is nice -- worth ordering in a bar just to see if you like it. Thanks for the comment.
I agree with both Angie and Gerlinde! Stunning photos and you should write a book. Maybe two... the second can be “The Art of Punning!”
I — living in the Southwest — have only had mezcal straight up, not even on the rocks, but this drink is mezcalling my name, too. And I think I would also prefer it on the rocks!
Hi Natalia, :-) Thanks for that kind comment!
Hi R, yup. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi David, you live SO close to the source of Mezcal. Lucky you! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Such stunning photos! Time to pick up some Mezcal and give it a try :)
Hi Liz, bet you'll like mezcal. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I know mezcal is for sipping but I was first introduced to it in a cocktail and therefore have an open mind (and gullet) concerning this beauty. GREG
Hi Greg, we only recently started using mezcal in cocktails. It's a wonderful ingredient! Thanks for the comment.
The Negroni is my cocktail of choice. And since I love the smoky quality of mezcal, I bet this drink that combines both in one is going to be my new favorite sip this summer.
Hi Carolyn, the Negroni is one of our favorites, too. You'll love this -- wonderful flavor. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Manservant is a huge mezcal drinker. Must say that I've also developed an affinity to it. Thanks John, I will pass it on to him, because he also loves a Negroni. And I loved your kind words. Thank you so much, my friend.
Hi Abbe, bet you'll really, really like this drink. :-) And SO sorry for your loss. Anyway, thanks for the comment.
Love this photo. As you may know, our liquor retailer is a government operation and in early spring they updated their inventory software which then went horribly wrong and liquor stores all over Ontario have had inventory issues. One such product is Campari! It’s just plain crazy!
Hi Eva, no Campari!!! Oh, no! :-) We love it as an ingredient in cocktails, so we'd be out of sorts if we couldn't get it. :-) Thanks for the comment.
This is one sexy drink! Seriously. You said it has attitude and you couldn't be more right!
My husband loves Mezcal on its own and in cocktails. This might just be his birthday drink. It's just a few weeks away. :-) And the photos are gorgeous!
Hi GiGi, lots, and lots of attitude. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Valentina, happy early birthday to your husband! He'll like this. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Mezcal is something I have to be in a mood for, but when I am in the mood, I love it. I also really love the glass that you used for this photo shoot. It's beautiful.
Hi Jeff, we really like mezcal, but agree it's one of those "mood" things -- not always up for its smoky flavor. Thanks for the comment.
Sounds like a wonderful drink. Beautiful pictures!!
Hi Dawn, it's SO good! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Yum! I love Negronis and I love mezcal, so sign me up for this one. :-)
Hi Frank, Negronis are one of our favorite drinks! And this is such a neat variation. :-) Thanks for the comment.
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