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With the wonderful expansion of the spirits world — new beverages and wired mixologists appearing daily — it can be confusing about “what is what” and where you might turn to for radically new beverage experiences.

Take mezcal. Have you ever drunk it? Careful, for that is a trick question. You see, tequila is one example of mezcal. And we all know all the varieties of tequila experiences on might have. Visit that neighborhood bar offering a 100 tequila brands!

Well, mezcal is even more varied. Yes, it can be smoky, and I personally am needing a period of adjustment. But no one can say mezcal is a passive drink for your grandmother. Mezcal often has a kick.

Tequila comes from blue weber agave plants but there are many other agave species, some cultivated and some wild, and those other species provide the spectrum of tastes you can experience with mezcal. As authors Lindsay Moore and Jennifer Boiudinot explain, mezcal flavor can be affected by the age when you drink, the barrels it is stored in, and the care of its makers — often multi-generational families in quite small Oaxacan byways. Mezcals can taste herby, grassy, fruity, and salty. With intense heat or just smooth. But, always, with some level of that defining smokiness.

After some introduction on history and how to sip, Lindsay and Jennifer provide 120 pages of recipes. Some old, some familiar, and some new twists that will surely test your imagination.

Of course, they have a Mezcal Margarita where tame tequila is banished and its smoky sibling rises to the occasion. There’s a Mezcal Negroni and a classic, the El Martinez, that you probably have not encountered but is the missing link between the Manhattan and Martini: mezcal, sweet vermouth, bitters and maraschino liqueur!

It’s the newer ideas in this book that have captured my imagination, like this Oaxacan Rosita:


That’s mezcal, preferably young or joven, Lillet Rose and Aperol. Such a mixture and Old and New Worlds, old and new spirits. The complexity of flavor is awesome. And, yes, it’ll be my other post for the day here!

Mezcal is certain to grow in popularity and demand. There are now a half-dozen mezcal books you can find. I find Viva Mezcal to be at the top of the list. If you want to dabble in smoke and fire, then this is the volume to get you started. Enjoy your journey. Suzi and I are going to Oaxaca next spring. Perhaps we can meet and sip together.