Try making your margaritas with mezcal to add an intriguing smoky quality. The Mezcal Margarita is a fun twist on the regular margarita that brings complex flavors to the table.
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Mezcal Margarita recipe
Margaritas are the stalwart behind taco night, Friday night, girls night. There’s not really a bad night for a good margarita.
Tequila, lime juice and a little salt? Perfection in a glass.
There are so many ways to change up these popular cocktails, from adding more flavors (like the cranberry margarita) to switching up what goes on the rim to enjoying them as frozen margaritas rather than on the rocks.
Tequila is often the only unchanging element, but its older sister shouldn’t go unlooked. Mezcal, of which tequila is simply a type, makes for a smokier, more complex addition that’s worth a try.
Why you’ll love this recipe
- If you already know how to make a classic margarita, mezcal will be an easy addition.
- Mezcal adds a sophisticated, smoky flavor to a cocktail, but it can range in intensity.
- Trying mezcal in the traditional margarita recipe is a great way to get to know this complicated spirit.
What is mezcal?
Mezcal is a Mexican distilled spirit made from the agave plant. It’s not the same as tequila; however, tequila is a type of mezcal.
Mezcal can be made with more than 40 types of agave plants, even a combination of different varieties. But to be called tequila, it must be made from a specific variety of agave — the agave tequilana AKA the Blue Weber agave.
But that’s just one of the major differences between these two agave spirits. The production process for tequila is different than that of mezcal. For tequila, the agave hearts, called piña, are steamed in above-ground ovens. Mezcal is produced in deep, stone fire pits that are underground and filled with wood and charcoal.
That’s where mezcal gets its smoky flavor. It can be sipped on its own but it makes a mean addition to a cocktail. For example, mezcal is delicious in a mezcal mule, a smoky spin on the classic Moscow mule cocktail. Oh, and the margarita of course!
Tequila margaritas have a cleaner taste, but mezcal margaritas have layers of complexity that are worth exploring.
Here’s what to grab at the grocery store to make these mezcal margaritas.
Best Mezcal for Margaritas
In the U.S., more than 120 brands of mezcal are sold, and there’s even more in Mexico.
We are lucky to have access to so many of the best mezcals, and it’s worth trying new ones here and there to see what you like.
Personally, my go-to brands are Del Maguey, Montelobos and Casamigos. Other popular brands are Doña Vega, Bozal, Neta, Dos Hombres, Mezcal Vago and Ilegal.
Montelobos is a great budget bottle, around $30, whereas a bottle of Casamigos will run a bit pricer, around $60.
Fresh Lime Juice
Using fresh citrus juice in a cocktail brings the best, zestiest flavor. If you have the bottled concentrate, that works too.
You may use homemade sour mix (make it into margarita mix by using all lime juice instead of part lime, part lemon) if you like. If you do this, skip the simple syrup in this cocktail.
If you’re using fresh limes, cut a few wedges or wheels for garnishes for your cocktails.
Colorless orange liqueur gives a hint of orange flavor and another layer of complexity to any margarita. The sweet orange balances the sour lime flavors in the margarita.
Triple sec and curaçao are low-cost versions that are quite delicious. For a top-shelf choice, Grand Marnier or Cointreau will give a more sophisticated flavor.
You have a few options to add some sweetness to your homemade mezcal margaritas.
The best way is agave nectar, which is a sweet syrup made from the agave plant. It pairs really beautifully with mezcal since they are made from the same plant.
Another option is making a batch of simple syrup, which is easy to make with sugar and water.
You could make a homemade honey syrup or dress them up with more flavors like jalapeño syrup to make spicy margaritas.
Maple syrup is another option you can use.
Skip adding a sweetener if you’re using sour mix, though!
For The Rim
Salt or sugar? The rim is the best part! (Though you can skip it if you like.)
A salted rim is traditional. Both sea salt and kosher salt work well. I don’t recommend using regular table salt. Try to use coarse salt, tough a flaky salt will be too coarse.
You can also use flavored salts. I love this Tajin chile-lime seasoning for its pretty color and delicious flavor. I also love making my own flavored salts, such as this orange salt or a spicy salt rim with a bit of chile powder mixed in.
If you like a sugar rim you can do that as well, though salt is more traditional when it comes to mezcal.
How to make mezcal margaritas
Making margaritas with mezcal is easy. Here’s what to do:
- First, rim the glasses. Use a wedge of lime and run it around the edge of a margarita glass or rocks glass (affiliate link). (Freeze it ahead of time if you want a frosty glass.) Then roll the rim of the glass in salt (or sugar) on a small plate.
- Add ice cubes to a cocktail shaker, then add your agave, lime juice, mezcal and orange liqueur. Cover it and shake it up well.
- Add fresh ice to the glasses, then top with the margarita mixture. Garnish with lime slices and enjoy!
Variations and substitutions
There are a number of ways you can tweak this mezcal margarita to make it your own.
Rim the shot glasses in sugar or salt. If you like, run a lime wedge around the edge of the glass and then roll it in kosher salt or granulated sugar.
Flavor them. Add 2 tablespoons of flavored simple syrup or frozen fruit (such as peaches, strawberries or blackberries) to give these mini margs some color or flavor.
Make them top-shelf. Use top shelf tequila and Grand Marnier instead of triple sec.
Make them non-alcoholic. If you wish for that tequila flavor without the alcohol content, use a zero-proof spirit like Ritual tequila alternative (affiliate link).
Make beeritas. Top your marg with a Mexican lager like Tecaté or Corona to make it a mezcal beerita.
Make them skinny. Use orange juice instead of triple sec for a lighter margarita.
Make them spicy. Infuse a jalapeño pepper or two in some mezcal to make some spicy mezcal. (Use it in a spicy Moscow mule, too!)
More mezcal cocktails
Besides using mezcal in margarita recipes, there are lots of other ways to use this smoky spirit.
You can use mezcal anywhere you’d use tequila, which will add that smoky, earthy mezcal taste to your alcoholic drink. For example, try mezcal in the national drink of Mexico, the tart grapefruit paloma.
Because of its rich, smoky flavor, it can also be used in lieu of bourbon for a really delicious twist. Try it in an old-fashioned cocktail or make a Mexican mint julep.
You can also use it in lieu of gin, such as in a mezcal negroni.
More margarita recipes
Try adding mezcal in lieu of tequila in one of these margarita recipes:
— Did you make this recipe? —
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Mezcal adds a complex, smoky flavor to a margarita that's worth considering for taco night.
- 3 ounces mezcal
- 2 ounces fresh lime juice
- 1 ounce triple sec
- 2 ounces agave nectar
- kosher salt or sugar, for the rim
- lime slices, for garnish
- To rim the glasses: Rub a wedge of lime around the edge of two glasses. Then roll the edges in salt or sugar.
- Add ice to a cocktail shaker, then add agave, lime juice, mezcal and orange liqueur. Cover it and shake it up well.
- Add ice to the glasses, then top with the margarita mix. Garnish with lime wedges.
Make them top shelf. Use top shelf tequila and Grand Marnier instead of triple sec.
Make them non-alcoholic. If you wish for that tequila flavor without the alcohol content, use a zero-proof spirit like Ritual tequila alternative that has a smoky flavor built-in.
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 2 Serving Size: 1 margarita
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 226Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 2mgCarbohydrates: 28gFiber: 0gSugar: 23gProtein: 0g
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