The Smoky Spirit Swap To Amplify Tropical Cocktails

Some gatekeeping cocktail fans like to get their kicks by ragging on tropical bevvies for being "frilly" and sickeningly sweet. But with this smoky spirit swap, critics will be hard-pressed to dismiss a tropical cocktail ever again.

If you ask Dave Tyda of Phoenix bar Barcoa Agaveria, swapping out the rum for mezcal in your next tropical cocktail makes for a wonderful union of sweet and smoky notes. "The fruity brightness combined with the heavy, bold flavors of some mezcals is a match made in heaven," Tyda said to Food & Wine.

Like tequila, mezcal is made from the agave plant. But, whereas tequila exclusively comes from Weber Blue agave grown in one of five designated growing regions in Mexico (Jalisco, Guanajuato, Tamaulipas, Michoacan, and Nayarit), mezcal can be made from any of the more than 30 species of the plant.

Its trademark bold, earthy, and smoky flavor comes from its production, during which the agave is roasted over wood and charcoal. Is your mouth watering yet? If so, we've rounded up a few tropical mezcal cocktail ideas to help get your boozy brainstorm rolling just in time for summer sipping.

Summer is mezcal's new time to shine

This quick game-changing tip isn't just for rum-based drinks either. You can sub in mezcal for pretty much any tropical mixed drink you would ordinarily enjoy, whether it's made with rum, tequila, or vodka.

The key to keep in mind here is that, due to its boldness, mezcal doesn't share the same "chameleon" qualities as tequila or vodka. You'll want to treat mezcal more like you'd treat whiskey or bourbon when considering a good flavor match as you build your cocktail.

For a smoky grapefruit sipper that you can enjoy on the rocks or frozen, swap out tequila for a citrusy mezcal Paloma — or, in the same vein, a mezcal margarita. Mezcal would be perfect in a tropical El Diablo cocktail, which combines blackcurrant crème de cassis, lime, and ginger beer. Tone down the blue Hawaiian's ultra-sweet profile with some bold, herbaceous mezcal. Use mezcal in a frozen pomegranate daiquiri or whip up a quick orange-cherry mezcal sunrise.

Combine the spirit with a little lime juice and simple syrup, and you've got yourself a mezcal caipirinha. (Sorry, cachaça fans.) Despite its eponymous name, the Tequila Mockingbird is really crying out for some mezcal to intensify its bright, earthy, and spicy profile of fresh watermelon, lime, and jalapeño. The possibilities are endless.