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How to Build Your Cocktail Bar, Part 3: Tequila and Mezcal

Article by Katherine Ramos

Last week, we looked at rum in building a home cocktail bar. In this installment, we’re moving to a category that you’ll find few mentions of in dusty cocktail books, but that’s critical to a modern bar: tequila and mezcal. Both have previously suffered bad reputations – too many cheap shots of anything in college will do that–but in recent years, connoisseurs have discovered just how good this stuff can get. A well-made agave distillate can be complex and entrancing, and that quality translates into cocktails.

Tequila and mezcal are subject to different laws and standards; tequila must be made in Jalisco while mezcal can come from anywhere in Mexico (though most is from Oaxaca), and the traditional production processes leave mezcal generally smokier than tequila. However, there’s one thing you should keep in mind while buying either: make sure it’s made from 100% agave. In the case of tequila it should be Weber Blue Agave, and in mezcal, one of many potential subspecies including Tobala and Espadín. Your drink will thank you! Make sure you always have a blanco tequila on hand–we recommend Milagro Silver–and bring in a reposado like 7 Leguas for more advanced mixing.

A bottle of high-quality mezcal, such as Del Maguey Vida, opens up possibilities for creative drink-making. Mezcal is still coming into its own with cocktailians, but there are some interesting possibilities for this smoky, earthy spirit. For some delicious variety, try swapping mezcal for tequila for an subtle twist on old favorites. With their relatively recent entrance into the cocktail world, agave spirits also offer interesting opportunities for substituting in classics; for something a little more unexpected, try swapping out tequila or mezcal in recipes that traditionally call for whiskey.

Margaritathree parts blanco (silver) tequilatwo parts Triple secone part Freshly squeezed lime juice

Shake with ice and strain into a salt-rimmed cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime wedge.

Tequila Old Fashioned(inspired by The Cocktail Spirit with Robert Hess)2 oz reposado tequila2 dashes aromatic bitters1 tsp. agave syrup

Stir with ice and strain into an old-fashioned glass. Garnish with a lemon twist. Until next time, cheers from DrinkUpNY!

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