Difficult to say, easy to drink, this Oaxaca Old-Fashioned is exotic without losing that charm of a bygone era.
Let’s start with the basics: waa-HAA-khaa.
I’m going to presume you’re here because you’re sick and tired of ordering one at a bar, only to embarrass yourself with your mispronunciation of its name. I get it. I’ve been there. But if embarrassing yourself is your payment to the cocktail gods then let me say, it’s worth it.
Today we’re visiting Oaxaca to adjust a cocktail you’re probably more familiar with: the Old-Fashioned. You might even know its origins. The concept of an Old-Fashioned developed in the late 19th century when mixologists (no, they weren’t called that back then) started getting “cocky” with their cocktails, making all sorts of complicated drinks and incorporating any number of ingredients. Traditionalists turned their collective noses up at the idea, preferring drinks made “the old-fashioned way” (i.e., a mix of whiskey, sugar, and bitters). Kinda ironic that this cocktail is very much in vogue nowadays.
This particular version takes that basic recipe and adds tequila and mezcal, giving the bourbon that usually populates an Old-Fashioned a break. It’s a simple switch that nevertheless makes for a new and refreshing cocktail.
Why is it Called ‘Oaxaca’?
Oaxaca isn’t a thing; rather, it’s a place. You can find it on a map by looking in southern Mexico. It’s not only a city, it’s a state (like New York, New York). It’s the destination of many tourists every year because of Oaxacan cuisine, which puts a novel spin on many traditional Mexican dishes. In the case of this cocktail, Oaxaca is popular for is mezcal production—one of the main ingredients in this Oaxaca Old-Fashioned. That other main ingredient—tequila—is from the Tequila region of Mexico, so it makes sense that the name of this new cocktail should be influenced by our neighbors to the south.
What is the Best Tequila to Use?
Tequilas are separated by their age. The youngins in the bunch are the silver/blanco tequilas, which mix well with others. They are milder and won’t overpower your cocktails. The older tequilas are more set in their ways. They have bolder tastes and are meant for sipping. For this Oaxaca Old-Fashioned, let’s meet somewhere in the middle and use a reposado. It’s not the youngest of tequilas nor is it the oldest. Think of it as the teenager of Mexican spirits! It has a nice amber color and has been sufficiently stored to carry over some of that fantastic oak-cask flavoring—ideal for Old-Fashioneds.
- Blanco (silver) is light in color and taste, so it won’t mask the other ingredients in your cocktail.
- Reposado is an amber-colored tequila and is stored for two months to a year in oak casks.
- Añejo and Extra Añejo (aged and extra aged, respectively) are the oldest of the tequilas. Añejo is aged for one to three years while Extra Añejo describes any tequila that is stored longer than three years.
- 1 1/2 oz. mezcal
- 1/2 oz. tequila reposado
- 1 tsp agave nectar
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- orange peel (for garnish)
- In a mixing glass, combine the mezcal, tequila, agave nectar, and Angostura bitters.
- Add ice cubes, and stir until chilled.
- Strain the mixture into an old-fashioned glass filled with a large ice cube.
- Twist the orange peel over the drink, and drop it in as a garnish.
Tips & Tricks to Making a Perfect Oaxaca Old-Fashioned
- If you’re after more of a citrusy taste, you can try running the orange twist around the rim of your glass.
- Browse the liquor store and compare brands of mezcal and brands of tequila. Not all are created equal. And if you try one and don’t like the taste, don’t be discouraged; there are numerous varieties. I’m sure one of them will appeal.
- If you’re comfortable with ‘pyro’, you should try holding the orange peel over a match before squeezing it over your drink. This ignites the oils and awakens its flavor.
- Try to make one large ice cube instead of a bunch of smaller ones. The big one will last longer and won’t dilute your drink.
- You may want to start off by muddling the bitters, the peel, and the syrup before adding the spirit. If you do this, you’ll guarantee the flavors are worked into the cocktail properly.
Other Old-Fashioned Variations To Try
Tequila Old-Fashioned: A Mexican twist similar to this cocktail but without the smokiness of the mezcal.
Brandy Old-Fashioned: In which we substitute the bourbon with brandy for an equally debonair concoction.
Classic Old-Fashioned: The original. The one that puts the ‘old’ in Old-Fashioned. If you’re looking to start an Old-Fashioned journey, start here.
Wisconsin Old-Fashioned: First cheese, now this. Is there anything the state of Wisconsin CAN’T do???
Oaxaca Old-Fashioned Mocktail: Drop the tequila and replace the mezcal with a non-alcoholic alternative or use a smoky tea infusion.