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Drink of the week: Mezcal margarita recipes for Cinco de Mayo

Mezcal cocktails, from left: Mezcal Marg, Strawberry Basil Mez Marg and Sand Pit Margarita.

Scott Pollenz | Times

Mezcal cocktails, from left: Mezcal Marg, Strawberry Basil Mez Marg and Sand Pit Margarita.

Forget the bucket of cheap Coronas, lackluster tacos and giant margaritas this Cinco de Mayo. Try something completely different: mezcal.

Mezcal is a smoky and spicy alternative to tequila. The traditional margarita spirit is made only from blue agave and roasted in an oven during production; mezcal can be made from a variety of different agave plants and then roasted in a wood-fired oven to bring out more flavor.

Despite my deep love for all things tequila, the varied flavor of mezcal offers greater complexity to the following drink recipes. Tequila's bite plays well with light, fruity drinks, but is often overshadowed by the abundance of sweetness in those concoctions. Mezcal is the opposite, cutting the sweetness immediately and offering different tastes with every sip. Challenge your palate this Cinco de Mayo weekend with any of these exotic drinks.

Scott Pollenz, Times staff writer

Mezcal Marg

The traditional margarita, but with a smoky take. This is a great recipe to start with when experimenting with mezcal. It will allow you to identify the flavor differences.

3 ounces gold mezcal

2 ounces triple sec

2 tablespoons agave nectar

1 ½ ounces lime juice

Ice

Combine all of the ingredients, with ice, into a cocktail shaker and shake until combined, about 20 seconds.

Strain into a glass rimmed with salt and filled with ice. Garnish with lime.

Makes 2 drinks.

Strawberry Basil Mez Marg

This variation trades the tart of citrus for the sweetness of strawberries. The menthol of the basil challenges the mezcal's smokiness.

4 fresh strawberries, cut into halves

2 sprigs basil

2 tablespoons agave nectar

4 ounces silver mezcal

1 ½ ounces water

Add the cut strawberries, basil and agave nectar to a cocktail shaker and muddle until the strawberries are mashed and the juices have been released.

Add ice, mezcal and water, and shake until combined. Strain into a glass rimmed with salt and filled with ice. Garnish with a cut strawberry.

Makes 2 drinks.

Sand Pit Margarita

Some mezcal production calls for the agave leaves to be buried in sand pits with rocks and baked for days to really bring out a smoky flavor. This drink draws inspiration from that style of production.

½ jalapeno, diced

1 orange, juiced

1 teaspoon chili powder

2 ounces triple sec

3 ounces gold mezcal

2 tablespoons agave nectar

Combine all ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until combined, about 20 seconds. Strain into a glass rimmed with salt and filled with ice. Garnish with a slice of orange and jalapeno.

Makes 2 drinks.

Drink of the week: Mezcal margarita recipes for Cinco de Mayo 05/02/16 [Last modified: Monday, May 2, 2016 3:29pm]
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