Alcohol aficionados have been talking up mezcal for years. For as long as I’ve been writing about drinks, it’s teetered on the edge of being the next big thing. Although it has crept onto the pages of the odd drinks list, it isn’t even out of the starting blocks in competing with tequila, its more flamboyant cousin.
Most people haven’t tried mezcal and many reasonably assume that it’s a subset of tequila – it’s not. While tequila is made with Blue Agave, mezcal can be made with a variety of agave plant varieties. And due to more variety in production methods, mezcals tend to have a much broader scope of flavours.
For too many of us, the taste profile of tequila is a mixture of salt, lime and vomit; yet the breadth and subtlety of flavour – I’m talking about the decent stuff here – deserve much more respect. Mezcal’s breadth is greater still. At tastings it’s not uncommon to hear comparisons with whisky and they’re not misplaced.
If you’re looking for somewhere to get started, check out the Del Maguey range. It sells single village mezcals, with every product in the collection made by family palenqueros (producers). If you can, snap up a bottle of its Iberico, which is produced with a Jamon Iberico hanging in the still. The vapours are marinated and the flavour and texture remain when it condenses. It’s good enough to turn a vegetarian to the dark side.
Mezcal cocktails are few and far between. As with whisky, it’s not the easiest drink to mix. But Wahaca does a really good job with its Pomegranate Mezcalita, which is available at its Soho restaurant and its Charlotte Street Mezcaleria. Next month the chain is promising a Rhubarb Mezcalita at all Wahaca restaurants. I’ve not tried it yet, but I can imagine the strong flavours work really well together.
- 35ml El Recuerdo de Oaxaca mezcal
- 15ml Freshly squeezed lime juice
- 10ml Agave syrup
- 20ml Pomegranate puree
- ¼ of a freshly squeezed orange
- Shake over ice and serve in a rocks glass, garnished with pomegranate seeds