When you’re craving a margarita but want a bit more oomph—Mezcal Margaritas are the answer! This mezcal margarita cocktail recipe is both refreshing and bold in flavor. It’s a great go-to recipe you can come back to time and time again. Plus, once you’ve made it a few times, go back and tweak it to make it your own!
What is a Mezcal Margarita?
A mezcal margarita is a cocktail recipe based on the traditional margarita made with tequila, lime juice and orange liqueur. A mezcal margarita replaces some of the tequila with, you guessed it, mezcal. Some recipes replace all of the tequila with mezcal, but we find a combination creates the perfect balance of flavors.
Use Mezcal and Tequila
As we just mentioned, we recommend making a mezcal margarita with equal parts tequila and mezcal. We find mezcal can really take over a cocktail—which can be both good and bad. Just depends on what you’re doing for.
Our goal was to create a margarita recipe that has a hint of smoke—but nothing that blows your socks off. Cutting it down the middle and using 1 ounce of each mezcal and tequila achieved that.
What is Mezcal?
Before we get into making the cocktail, we’ve first have to understand what mezcal is.
Mezcal is a Nahuatl word and translated as “cooked agave.” Compared to other ingredients used to make spirits, such as wheat, grapes, sugarcane, etc.—agave takes the longest to grow. The agave plant (aka maguey) takes a minimum of 4–5 years to mature, with some varieties taking up to a decade to reach maturity. The buildup of complex flavors and aromas over the growth period simply adds to mezcal’s complexity.
When you think of agave and alcohol, most of our minds naturally go to tequila. You might be surprised to learn that not all mezcal is tequila, but all tequila is considered a mezcal.
Mezcal has more “wiggle room” than tequila and is allowed to be made from a broader range of agave varieties. In short, the agave plant, specifically the root-bulb called the piña, is harvested and cooked to turn its starches into sugars.
The piña is traditionally roasted in a pit, inside a clay pot, for several days—which is where that signature smoky flavor enters! (It essentially bakes in an underground oven.) The roasted bulb is allowed to rest for a few weeks, giving the agave juice inside the piña husk a chance to ferment. Once fermented, the juice is distilled to create the liquor know as mezcal.
Ingredients in Mezcal Margarita
Mezcal: there are so many different mezcals on the market. We break down the different types of mezcal so you don’t have to guess. Our go-to mezcal is Del Maguey Vida but we also like Illegal Mezcal Joven.
Tequila: we like to use tequila blanco to make Mezcal Margaritas. It’s clean and smooth in flavor—ensuring it won’t take away from the mezcal. As we always say, the “best” liquor to use in cocktails is one you enjoy. Our go-to tequila is either Cazadores or Don Julio.
Lime Juice: fresh squeezed lime juice is key to a good margarita! To get the most out of your limes, look for limes that have a smooth skin and are slightly soft when squeezed.
Simple Syrup or Agave Syrup: we like to play around with different infused simple syrups (sage simple syrup is our favorite). You can use a regular simple syrup or agave syrup. If you opt for agave, use light agave or blue agave syrup. Avoid dark agave syrup as it will add too deep of a flavor.
Just like any liquor, mezcal can be enjoyed neat, on the rocks or in a cocktail. Try mezcal in our Mezcal Old Fashioned for a on-the-rocks style cocktail. Or make our Spicy Mezcal Margarita for a flavor-packed cocktail.
Mezcal has a totally different taste than tequila. While both are made from agave, they have completely different flavor profiles. Tequila is more citrusy and spicy and mezcal is smoky.
It’s all about preference here. Most people make margaritas with silver or blanco tequila because it has a cleaner taste (we really like it in our Cherry Margarita). If you prefer your cocktails to be deeper in flavor and less citrusy, use reposado or añejo.
Tequila is made from the blue agave plant and is from Mexico.
More Ways to Use Mezcal
Mezcal pairs wonderfully with whiskey in our Smoky Mezcal Sour. It’s a year-round drink, but especially delicious in the fall.
Save your really good mezcal for a Mezcal Old Fashioned. If you like boozy sippers, the Oaxaca Old Fashioned is for you.
Freeze up a batch of Smoky Mezcal Margarita Popsicles for those late summer nights.
And finally, if you’re new to mezcal, make sure you check out our complete guide to mezcal.
Mezcal Margarita Recipe
- 1 ounce mezcal
- 1 ounce tequila
- 1 ounce fresh squeeze lime juice
- ¾ ounce sage simple syrup* or agave syrup
- Fill a rocks glass with ice.
- Add 1 ounce mezcal, 1 ounce tequila, 1 ounce lime juice, and ¾ ounce simple syrup to a cocktail shaker filled with ice.
- Secure lid and shake vigorously until thoroughly chilled, about 15 seconds.
- Strain into prepared glass and garnish as desired (we like to garnish with a sage leaf).