With tequila on track to overtake vodka in on-premise sales, there’s no denying the popularity of the earthy agave spirit. And growing in favor right along with it is its agave sibling mezcal, beloved for its multitude of iterations, inherent complexity, and seductive smoke. Though traditionally enjoyed neat, mezcal’s intense flavor profile pairs well with a number of ingredients — especially citrus — making cocktails a perfect means of introducing those who may be skeptical about the spirit.

To get a better understanding of which mezcal cocktails we might be missing in our lives, we asked 22 bartenders from around the world to share their favorites. While an overwhelming majority prefer their smoky spirit in classics like the Naked and Famous or the Mezcal Negroni — and so many more we can hardly keep track — the wonderful world of mezcal cocktails extends far and wide. Here’s what the experts said.

The best mezcal cocktails, according to bartenders:

  • The Naked and Famous
  • The Mexican Firing Squad
  • The Mezcal Jungle Bird
  • The Tough With Two
  • The Mosquito
  • The Mezcal Negroni
  • The Velvet Sideswipe
  • The Mezcal Last Word
  • La Ultima Palabra
  • The Mezcal Paloma
  • The Mezcal Sour
  • The Mezcal Hemingway Daiquiri
  • Dulce Enchilado
  • Puesto’s Watermelon Margarita
  • The Better and Better
  • The Blood Rave
  • The Novelist

The Naked and Famous is one of the best mezcal cocktails, according to bartenders.

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“The Naked and Famous is a variation on The Last Word — a four-ingredient, equal-parts drink from the Prohibition era. You have equal parts mezcal, fresh lime juice, Aperol, and yellow Chartreuse. Be wise and choose a great mezcal; my go-to is Rey Campero Espadín. You can’t go wrong with this incredibly tasting, refreshing cocktail.” —Claudia Duran, bar leader, Planta, West Palm Beach, Fla.

“I’m a huge fan of mezcal, and although I traditionally prefer to enjoy it neat, my guilty pleasure mezcal cocktail is the Naked and Famous. This masterpiece was created by Joaquín Simó back when he was working at Death & Co. about 10 years ago. Since then, it has become a modern classic, and it’s probably called for just as often as its stylistic cousins, the Paper Plane and the Last Word. Easy to build — and easier to drink — this is a straightforward combination. When using a bold mezcal like Cinco Sentidos’ Espadín Capon, the resulting drink is true to its base spirit, ultra refreshing, and sneakily complex.” —Eduardo Porto Carreiro, vice president of beverage, Rocket Farm Restaurants, Atlanta

The Mexican Firing Squad is one of the best mezcal cocktails, according to bartenders.

“An underrated classic, my favorite cocktail to drink with mezcal is a Mexican Firing Squad. It’s an incredibly simple yet delicious and refreshing combination of lime, grenadine, and a healthy dose of Angostura bitters topped off with soda water. The drink was originally made with tequila, but I think an Espadín better suits the beverage as a whole. Be sure to only use fresh, real grenadine derived from pomegranate — not the fluorescent Shirley Temple variety!” —Rob Struthers, beverage director, Gair, New York City

“My favorite mezcal cocktail is a Mezcal Jungle Bird. The original cocktail consists of rum, Campari, pineapple juice, lime juice, and Demerara syrup, but I love to substitute rum with mezcal. We have a version on the Palo Santo cocktail list called “Madre Selva” that is made with La Luna Cupreata Mezcal, Aperol, fresh pineapple and lime juices, spiced honey syrup, and a couple dashes of Angostura bitters. Mezcal combines really well with pineapple juice, so that’s initially why I thought it would be a good idea to make the substitution. I also switched the Campari for Aperol because it takes away some bitterness that Campari tends to give cocktails, and instead of Demerara syrup, I added a spiced honey syrup made with wildflower honey, cinnamon, allspice, and clove. This new combination creates a well-balanced, tiki-style cocktail that can be enjoyed year-round.” —Antonio Morales, beverage director, Palo Santo, Atlanta

“One of my favorite mezcal cocktails is called Tough With Two. I created this drink as the beverage manager at Frankies 457 Spuntino after being inspired by a peach Margarita I had in Puerto Rico. It’s made with mezcal, lime juice, cayenne honey syrup, and peach liqueur. I didn’t want to make it too sweet, so I added a bit of cayenne to the honey syrup to add some spice and round out the drink. Garnish with more cayenne or a peach slice to make it purdy. I’m also a huge fan of Attaboy, and any drink with their house-made ginger syrup is a must have. The Mosquito from Sam Ross has a bit of everything with equal parts mezcal, Campari, lemon juice, and ginger syrup. Smoky, spicy, bitter, and refreshing, it’s no surprise that it’s a perfectly balanced cocktail!” —Michael Beck, beverage director, Union Square Cafe, New York City

The Mezcal Negroni is one of the best mezcal cocktails, according to bartenders.

“One of my favorite mezcal cocktails is a Mezcal Negroni. Building this cocktail is so easy — you only need three ingredients, and the combination of the smoky mezcal with vermouth and bitters creates a deliciously balanced cocktail. I really enjoy drinking this cocktail on a summer day or winter night.” —Raul Zavala, bar manager, Summit One Vanderbilt, New York City

“We love the complexity of mezcal, and we love how often it can show a sense of terroir. The complexity and strength of the spirit lends itself to cocktails that don’t use lots of heavy modifiers, so as much as we can, we like to get out of the way of the spirit and showcase as much of its beauty as possible. With this in mind, a Mezcal Negroni — using classic Boulevardier specs — is our favorite mezcal cocktail.” —Brandon Ristaino, co-founder and beverage director, Good Lion Hospitality, Santa Barbara, Calif.

“Shout out to the late, great John Lermayer and his delicious Velvet Sideswipe from Sweet Liberty Drinks & Supply Company in Miami Beach. Made with Del Maguey Vida, pineapple juice, lemon juice, agave, and a drizzle of punt-e-mes vermouth, it’s just an absolutely delicious blend of smoke, spice, and sweetness.” —John ‘Fitzy’ Fitzgerald, spiritual advisor, Warren American.Whiskey.Kitchen, Delray, Fl.

“I am a true believer in sipping mezcal and enjoying the uniqueness of the terroir and flavor from each product, but when it comes to mezcal cocktails, I’m a bitter-and-boozy drinker. My favorite mezcal cocktail is a variation of the Negroni that complements an Espadín mezcal called the Mezcalero. The one we have at Sweet Liberty includes mezcal, Cocchi Rosa, Aperol, Scrappy’s grapefruit bitters, and a grapefruit twist.” —Stephen Wicker, bar manager, Sweet Liberty Drinks and Supply Company, Miami

“My favorite mezcal cocktail will definitely have to be a ‘La Ultima Palabra,’ which translates to ‘the Last Word’ and is a variation of the classic gin cocktail using equal parts mezcal, green Chartreuse, Luxardo Maraschino liqueur, and lime juice. Usually a smokier mezcal is preferred. One of the main reasons why I like this cocktail so much is because of its use of green Chartreuse. Created in the 18th century by Carthusian monks, it contains more than 120 ingredients. Another ingredient in the cocktail is Luxardo Maraschino liqueur, which is a neutral-spirited cherry liqueur and extremely sweet, so the lime juice really ties all the flavors together with a healthy dose of citrus.” —Hernán Trujillo, head bartender, J.Bespoke, New York City

“My favorite mezcal cocktail is the Paloma. It’s originally made with tequila, but using mezcal adds a layer of sophistication to the cocktail alongside the agave and grapefruit, creating a match made in heaven. The drink is refreshing yet tangy with some herbaceous and savory under-notes from the mezcal, which makes it the perfect drink for hot days in Miami. I like to make mine with grapefruit juice, grapefruit liqueur, lime, a hint of sugar, a pinch of salt, and mezcal followed by a light shake. Then, I top it off with grapefruit soda and enjoy.” —Karol Ansaldi, bar manager, Queen Miami Beach, Miami

“When I’m drinking a super-tasty, rare, or expensive mezcal, I like to let the spirit speak for itself. My favorite mezcal is the Rey Campero Tepeztate, but a simple Mezcal Sour is my move if I feel like indulging. Simply combine mezcal, simple syrup, and lime juice before shaking and straining to serve. If you’re feeling super-crazy, switch out the simple for a proper pomegranate grenadine and add a couple hits of a spice tincture to make yourself a Mexican Firing Squad.” —Adam Miller, beverage director, Rita Cantina, East Hampton, N.Y.

“Mezcal in general is such a fantastic spirit to change up a classic cocktail and offer a bolder rendition to riff with. Most commonly, we see the crowd favorites like Margaritas and Palomas, but I prefer a punchier classic — the Last Word. I love to sub mezcal for the gin component and really make this classic pop with other notable flavors like Chartreuse and Maraschino toned with a hint of citrus.” —Alli Torres, general manager and managing partner, Freehold Miami, Miami, Fl.

“My favorite mezcal cocktail is the Mezcal Hemingway Daiquiri. It’s bright, refreshing, not overly sweet, mildly bitter, and well balanced. I find that the mezcal plays nicely with the Maraschino for a slightly smoked cherry [flavor].” —Alicia Perry, beverage director, CH Projects, San Diego

“[My] best suggestion for a mezcal cocktail would be a Mezcal Negroni made with equal 1-ounce parts of Bozal Espadín, Campari, and Carpano Antica with a flamed orange peel for a bright, aromatic lift. The cocktail is simple enough to make with premium brands and the flavor profile of the Bozal Espadín has subtle smoke with a well-rounded mouthfeel.” —Gordon Kelley, lead mixologist, The St. Regis Bar at The St. Regis Atlanta, Atlanta

“I believe a good mezcal cocktail should embrace the smoky, slightly charred taste and smell that comes with most mezcals without having this aspect completely take over a drink. In our Dulce Enchilado, we use mezcal to create a briny and sour Spicy Margarita variation. This drink is made with mezcal, Chinola (a passion fruit liqueur), lime, cactus brine, agave, and a sweet-and-spicy sauce called chamoy. The drink balances out well because the ingredients offer salt, sweet, sour, and umami flavors from the cooked cactus with nothing overpowering anything else. Even non-mezcal drinkers can enjoy the cocktail, as the smoky flavors are subtle.” —Alex Dominiguez, head bartender, Bar Calico, New York City

“My favorite mezcal cocktail is Puesto’s Watermelon Margarita. This cocktail is such a banger because, at the end of the day, it really tastes like a vibrant watermelon Marg made with mezcal. The modifiers just give it a boost of bright flavor so there’s no need to call it something [more] clever.” —Beau du Bois, vice president of bar & spirits, Puesto, San Diego

“There’s always been a special place in my heart for the Naked and Famous, a cocktail that demands your attention from start to finish. If you’re having a hard time sourcing Chartreuse at the moment, Strega is a more than ample substitute. I’m constantly dazzled by the way this drink all at once can soften even the hottest mezcal and blossom it into a completely different animal. Perfect for any season, I always keep this cocktail in rotation for agave lovers who visit my bar.” —Sean Gundersen, lead bartender, Baar Baar Los Angeles, Los Angeles

“This one is a deep cut, but I love the Better and Better by veteran bartender Jan Warren. I was drinking at Dutch Kills in Long Island City when he was testing it out, and was happily a guinea pig for variations of the drink. The Better and Better has some big flavors and high ABV all clashing in the same glass so it has to be served over a big, dense ice cube. It starts out like a punch in the face, but gets “better and better” as the ice cube slowly dilutes it. The version I like best is made with 1 ½ ounces of mezcal — preferably something with a big smoke flavor and some earthiness to it, [like] Derrumbes San Pitosi. Combine it with ½ ounce Smith and Cross Jamaican rum — massive, complex, and full of funk — and finally ¼ ounce of falernum for a little sweetness, plus a bit of ginger and clove to tie it together. This drink is a journey.” —Pete Vasconcellos, beverage director, Albert’s Bar, New York City

“I like to work with mezcal because of its complexity; each mezcal is unique to the region where the agave is grown and can complement several different flavor profiles in a cocktail. My favorite mezcal cocktail is a Mezcal Paloma. Substituting mezcal in any tequila cocktail is a great way to make it approachable for guests. For our guests at Primo, we split the base in our take on a Paloma with Casamigos Blanco Tequila, and we add a little Aperol.” —Jerry Ferreira, bartender, Primo Orlando at Grande Lakes Orlando, Orlando, Fla.

“The Blood Rave is comprised of Montelobos, beet and lime juices, miso falernum, absinthe, and Giffard Pimente d’Espelette. The spice, umami, and light smokiness in these ingredients pair together so well! It also comes out a blood-red slash purple color, which is perfect for our wonderfully creepy Halloween pop-ups.” —Kelsey Ramage, co-founder, traveling pop-up Black Lagoon

“The Spicy Mezcal Margarita is a great twist on a classic cocktail that highlights mezcal’s bold smokiness, savoriness, vegetal, and earthy characteristics. We have a take on our menu at Apéritif Bar called The Novelist which uses mezcal and reposado tequila with blue curacao, aji limo chili, passion fruit, mango, and turmeric. It’s sweet and sour, tropical, and herbal with a hint of heat from aji limo chili. The color combination of the yellow from passion fruit and mango [plus] the blue curacao results in a deep green cocktail that really works with the theme of Apéritif: 1930s Bali.” —Panji Wisrawan, head mixologist, Apéritif Bar at Viceroy Bali, Bali, Indonesia