Enjoy more than a Margarita on Cinco de Mayo with these tequila and mezcal cocktails. These five drinks are great alternatives to the tequila based classic Margarita and range in flavor from smokey to citrus-forward. They’re ideal for celebrating this festive Mexican holiday but for many agave spirit lovers they will be excellent drinks to enjoy year-round.
Understanding the difference between the two agave spirits may help in making a decision on which cocktail to celebrate with. Both are made from the agave plant. While mezcal can be made from a variety of different agaves, tequila must be made from the blue agave plant. The former gets its distinguishing smokiness from its cooking method, which involves an earthen pit with lava rocks, wood, and charcoal. Whereas the latter is made using more modern methods, heating the agave in industrial ovens and then distilling it in copper pots. They’re respectively made in different regions of Mexico, with the majority of Mezcal produced in the state of Oaxaca, which lends its name to our first cocktail on the list.
1. Oaxaca Old Fashioned
The Oaxaca Old Fashioned, a riff on the classic Old Fashioned, uses three agave elements. It combines smokey Mezcal, smooth reposado tequila, and sweet agave syrup, softening the bold smokey flavor. The cocktail was created in 2007 and was instrumental in launching the mezcal craze in the United States. There’s hardly a more thoroughly agave drink out there.
The Paloma is a tequila-based cocktail that combines tart grapefruit juice with citrusy lime juice, simple syrup, and then topped with soda water and bitters. Its ratios create a marvelous cocktail with a flavor that is nicely balanced between sweet, sour, and slightly bitter. And bonus, it’s low-proof, easy to drink, and refreshing!
Meaning “Last Word” in Spanish, the Ultima Palabra is a mezcal riff on the classic equal-parts Last Word. It uses green Chartreuse, maraschino liqueur, and lime juice. These equal-part ingredients, combined with its agave base, create a balanced but complex citrus-smokey cocktail. It joins a litany of other Last Word variations, including the modern classicPaper Plane and the Naked and Famous.
This frozen mezcal drink is a variation on the Jungle Bird. Created by a Missouri native, The Show Me State blends its agave spirit with orange Curaçao, orange juice, lime juice, and simple syrup. These ingredients give this adult slushy a citrus-forward flavor with a hint of smokiness. It’s a fun approachable drink that’s easy to make in a big batch for large gatherings.
This twist on the citrus-heavy classic Margarita is slightly bitter and herbaceous. It adds the Italian bitter liqueur, Aperol, and the French elderflower liqueur, St-Germain to its tequila base with a splash of lime juice. The flavor is nicely balanced and visually it is a stunning, brilliantly hued cocktail. The decision to salt or not to salt the rim is entirely up to you.