Whether you genuinely enjoy holiday gatherings or they stress you out, a mezcal flight will land well. It’s also a (only slightly pretentious) way to impress your friends and family with something a little different. Since this might be an instance where people who don’t normally indulge in agave spirits may partake, it’s an ideal time to rely on accessible and tried and true flavors and pairings.
Holidays are the perfect time to honor the tradition of Pechuga mezcals, those that are infused with house recipes of fruits, spices, and typically a whole or partial animal, resulting in a spirit with extra body and flavors. Incorporating classic pairings like chocolate, citrus, and salt also serve as a jumping off point to bring people into the culture and tradition of mezcal and its people and lands. Contrary to some understandable impulses, it is not the best time to bust out the super exclusive or rare bottles with less accessible flavors- unless your group is an experienced mezcal crowd. The main goal is to share what will be most appreciated by all who are partaking.
One of the best values available, this 100% espadin is made by Edgar Gonzalez in San Cristobal Lachirioag, Oaxaca. The unique terroir of this mezcal translates in the flavor as bright pineapple, clay, and peppery spice, with roasted undertones. Always a good option for both new and seasoned sippers.
Made by a variety of master distillers and their families across Oaxaca, the entire line features terroir-specific mezcals made from 100% espadin. All bottlings show off the versatility of Oaxacan espadin in styles that are well suited for sipping neat, and can be used for mixing into cocktails- a handy versatility during holiday gatherings.
Don Amado Pechuga
One of my all time favorite Pechugas, this is a benchmark example made by the Arellanes family in Santa Catarina Minas, Oaxaca. The house recipe is full of juicy fruits and warm spices, creating layers of flavor that taste as festive as they do downright delicious in this espadin based mezcal. The value here is also noteworthy, considering the top tier quality.
Salty, milky, and mild, this stringy cheese is just so good. If you can’t find real quesillo, go for a good quality mozzarella and sprinkle with sea salt. Especially well suited to bring out the earthy and creamy notes of a mezcals, this is a simple classic for a reason, don’t overthink it.
Sea Salt Dark Chocolate
Any good dark chocolate works beautifully with mezcal, and a touch of sea salt boosts the flavors all around, allowing both savory and sweet flavors to come through. If you have real Mexican chocolate on hand, even better, served as chunks to eat or froth it into its traditional drinkable form.
Candied Citrus Peel
Candied citrus peels allow the flavor of citrus to come through without any harsh acidity- which can actually take away from the complexity of a spirit by overwhelming the palate. This pairing works well to complement any sweet citrusy notes while also highlighting opposing notes like dark roastiness and spice.
The pairings were chosen to highlight the corresponding individual mezcals as well as to work with each other. Start, in the order as listed, with the mezcal on its own. Then go back through tasting each mezcal with its corresponding pairing. Finally, taste each mezcal with the other pairings, mixing and matching. Notice how the flavors play together and what each bite brings out in each mezcal, and savor the differences in personal preference that emerge as you taste. As always, feel free to use the general themes: chocolate, cheese, and citrus, as a jumping off point for your own creativity.