Make cocktails with mezcal or tequila at home for Cinco de Mayo

By Evan Kleiman

I miss bars. I’m not a big drinker, but going to a great bar and nursing a deliciously balanced cocktail or two over conversation is a treat that’s been missing the past many months, both the elixir that relaxes and conversation in close intimate settings. I’ll have an occasional Negroni or Gin and Tonic at home, but it’s not like I measure or take the time to garnish the glass.  

Since Cinco de Mayo is coming up, often an occasion to imbibe, I decided to reach out to a selection of talented bartenders and ask them for a mezcal or tequila-based drink we can make at home.

The recipes range from simple to more complex, with tart, sweet, smoky and savory flavor choices. Take the time to follow the recipes and shake or stir as required. Dip those glass rims and finish off the drink with the required final garnish. Salud!


Eric Alperin of The Varnish
Matt Biancaniello of Eat Your Drink
Adam Flamenbaum of M. Georgina (formerly of Native)
Gilbert Marquez of Illegal Mezcal
Miguel Valencia of Anepalco Restaurant

Eric Alperin offers a recipe for La Otra Palabra. Photo courtesy of Eric Alperin.  (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

Eric Alperin of The Varnish and author of “Unvarnished

Eric created this cocktail based on The Last Word, a Prohibition-era gin cocktail that originated at the Detroit Athletic Club. Opt for a mezcal with a clean, peppery flavor. Use a giant rock of ice. Eric was the bartender who  popularized large format ice and created systems to make it.

La Otra Palabra 
smoky | bold | bright


  • 2 ounces mezcal
  • 1 ounce lime juice
  • 1/4 ounce yellow Chartreuse
  • 1/4 ounce Maraska Maraschino Cherry Liqueur
  • 1 bar spoon agave syrup


-Measure all ingredients into a cocktail shaker.
-Add a rock of ice and shake hard.
-Strain into a chilled double rocks glass over a fresh rock of ice.

Matt Biancaniello offers a recipe for The Inside of Italy. Photo courtesy of Matt Biancaniello. 

Matt Biancaniello of Eat Your Drink

The Inside of Italy
tart | fresh | savory


  • 2 oz 123 Tequila Blanco
  • 3/4 oz fresh lime juice
  • 3/4 oz agave syrup ( 1:1 ratio of agave nectar to water)
  • 1/4 of a Cara Cara orange ( from JJ’s Lone Daughter)
  • Healthy pinch of  fresh oregano ( from Coleman Farms)
  • 1 oz white balsamic
  • Garnish: Dehydrated and Smoked Grapefruit slice from Windrose Farm


-Muddle everything except the tequila
-Add the tequila and ice and shake and strain into a rocks glass with nugget ice and garnish with grapefruit slice

Adam Flamenbaum offers a recipe for Petunia. Photo courtesy of Adam Flamenbaum. 

Adam Flamenbaum formerly of M. Georgina 

“The red wine syrup, which gives the drink its color and depth of flavor, is easy to make. Simply stir together equal parts red wine and rich simple syrup. Aperol adds an orange accent and subtle bitterness,” says Flamenbaum. “If using Campari instead, you can omit the orange bitters. It’s called a petunia because its distant cousin is the daisy (or margarita), and because of its deep color. Petunias grow wild throughout Mexico much like agave.”

savory | tart | refreshing


  • 2oz Mezcal
  • ¾ oz Lime juice
  • ½ oz Aperol
  • ½ oz Red Wine Syrup
  • Several dashes of Orange Bitters


-Shake, strain, and serve over ice. 
-Garnish with a lime wheel. 

Gilbert Marquez offers a recipe for Santa Ana Fruit Cart. Photo courtesy of Gilbert Marquez. 

Gilbert Marquez of Illegal Mezcal

“Street vendors were the highlight of my weekend growing up in Southern California, and this cocktail pays tribute to those memories,” says Marquez. 

Santa Ana Fruit Cart
sweet | sour | spicy 


  • 2 slices fresh cucumber
  • ½ oz simple syrup
  • ½ oz lime juice
  • 1 oz pineapple juice
  • 2 oz mezcal


-Shake with ice and serve without. 
-Garnish rim with Tajin and a cucumber wheel

Miguel Valencia offers a recipe for Spicy Y Flaca. Photo courtesy of Miguel Valencia. 

Miguel Valencia of Anepalco

“It’s called ‘spicy’ because we combine Poblano and Serrano chiles in the elaboration of the drink, and ‘flaca’ or skinny because we use 100% cane sugar for the syrup,” says Valencia. 

Spicy Y Flaca
tart | spicy | fresh


  • 2 oz tequila blanco infused with poblano chile and cucumbers for 24 hours
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • 1 oz cane sugar syrup


-Garnish by dipping the rim of the glass first in lime juice then in powdered chile.
-Float a cucumber slice on top.