Smoked Up

Mezcal appears on spring cocktail lists across the city

Mixologists are always searching for the next flavor to weave into their cocktail creations. The taste of the moment is subtle smoke–courtesy of Mexico's other spirit, mezcal.

Its bold, earthy flavor comes from roasted, crushed agave hearts (piñas). Where tequila is made from the piñas' fermented juice, for mezcal the entire heart is roasted and fermented–and usually distilled only once, keeping the smoke note vibrant.

The favorite brand among local bartenders is Del Maguey, a producer of small-batch, single-village mezcals, each made using centuries-old methods. The San Luis is the aromatic backbone of Big Star's exemplary margarita ($8). Blackbird's Oh Wow pairs Del Maguey Crema de Mezcal–a blend of roasted agave syrup and mezcal–with tequila, passion fruit and yuzu.

At The Drawing Room, Charles Joly's Zapateca ($12) blends Del Maguey Vida with Cynar and orange bitters for a concoction reminiscent of a Martinez–the deeply flavored predecessor of the martini.

But the smoothest iteration is off the cleverly titled, chapter-book-like cocktail list at downtown's Sable. There, Mike Ryan's Speaking in Tongues ($13) mixes Del Maguey Vida, muddled strawberries, bitters and lemon for a cocktail that hits the tongue with an innocent sweetness, but finishes smoky and strong (click here to download the recipe).