What Makes The Oaxacan Old Fashioned Unique?

Mezcal enthralling category of spirits with an expansive diversity. Produced using dozens of species across nine Mexican states, everything from ambient yeasts to terroir imparts distinct nuance. VinePair says the drink has been oversimplified to "tequila's smokey cousin" for far too long. In the United States, the appetite for agave liquors is growing rapidly — sales are projected to rise 31% through 2026, according to Just Drinks. So don't be surprised to encounter a few more agave bottles at the bar.

Although the spirit is traditionally sipped neat, perhaps with an accompanying snack, it can also add an intriguing depth to bold cocktails, explains Mexlocal. There's no better foray into mezcal mixology than the Oaxacan Old Fashioned. Made with reposado tequila, just a half-ounce pour of mezcal, and bitters, this modern classic provides an accessible agave entryway. Invented in 2007 by Phil Ward, this cocktail is attributed to the rise of mezcal in the United States, per Liquor.com. A true modern classic, there's a whole lot that makes this clever hybrid unique so let's dive in.

The history of the Oaxacan Old Fashioned

The cocktail's origins are interlinked with its creator Phil Ward. The drink emerged when he worked at Death & Co., a celebrated Manhattan speakeasy now turned national empire. Since many regulars frequented the bar, Ward experimented with new cocktail recipes daily. He turned to mezcal to add a twist, amazed by the spirit's intensity of flavor. First came a daiquiri with a Mexican twang, containing only seven milliliters of the spirit. Next, Ward turned to a mezcal reinterpretation of an Old-Fashioned, which soon landed on the menu and became an instant hit, reports Diageo Bar Academy.

Ward can't recall the exact moment he created the drink but notes it as one of his big epiphanies. Accrediting a personal theory of mixology, which he calls the Mr. Potato Head, Ward believes that reshuffling cocktails on a tried template yields impressive results. A sum greater than its parts, the Oaxacan Old Fashioned did just that and highly influenced the cocktail world, per the Australian Bartender.

How the Oaxacan Old Fashioned is prepared

The classic Old Fashioned is one of the oldest and most perennially popular cocktails in existence. Perfectly encapsulating the bittered sling formula — liquor, bitters, water, and a sweetener, the drink is an ideal canvas for reinterpretations, per Food Republic.

The variation with Mexican spirits includes a bottle of reposado tequila (which alludes to the aged flavors of whiskey) and an espadin mezcal. No need to splurge on wild agaves for cocktails. According to Liquor.com, espadin is best suited for mixology due to its range of flavors and accessibility.

To mix the cocktail, combine one and a half ounces of tequila with half an ounce of mezcal in a chilled glass with one large ice cube. Add a bar spoon of agave nectar, and a couple of dashes of Angostura bitters. Stir until cold. Garnish by flaming an orange-peel, skin side down, and then dropping it into the drink, via Imbibe.

Such a riff doesn't change the old-fashioned preparation technique but opens to a world of Mexican spirits. Sip on its own, or accompanied by a tasty Mexican dish.