Smoked Juniper Mezcal Margarita

We don’t know about you, but we’re itching for a vacation — even if that vacation must be, for obvious reasons these days, of the staycation variety.

One of our favourite poolside indulgences while on vacation is the margarita, a cocktail best enjoyed in the late afternoon sunlight, preferably near a beach and palm trees. Despite the state of the world’s nations, spring has still come to the Northern Hemisphere, and we’re trying to welcome it however possible — in our own backyards, on our balconies, or lounging in whichever rooms offer the most sunlight in the evenings.

Tequila, the key ingredient of the summery margarita, is distilled from the blue agave plant. Its cousin, on the other hand, is a spirit called mezcal, and it can be made from any type of agave. This smokier alcohol, the national spirit of Mexico, makes an ideal substitute for those who like their margaritas a little less sweet and with a little more kick.

For those who really love a complex layering of flavours, we suggest complementing the smokiness of mezcal with a juniper salt. You may be able to find some through your local artisanal grocers (many are offering home delivery these days), and for those looking for a project to abate some boredom, this recipe from Martha Stewart has instructions for making your own. But our favourite is a Smoked Juniper Sea Salt from a small Canadian company called the Newfoundland Salt Company, which produces its handsomely packaged sea salts in small, handcrafted batches from the pure waters of Trinity Bay. (Fun fact: Dan Aykroyd produces his Crystal Head Vodka in Newfoundland thanks to the fine quality of the province’s water.) This Juniper Smoked Sea Salt is smoked for at least 8 hours over a low-lying juniper bush, which gives it what the company describes as an “aromatic and sappy smoke flavour.” This fragrant salt is the perfect complement to the nuanced flavours of mezcal and this citrusy-yet-smoky margarita.

Ingredients & Method

In a shaker, combine:

4-5 ice cubes

3 oz mezcal

2 oz fresh lime juice

1 oz simple syrup

  1. Shake for 30 seconds and let sit while you prepare the glass.
  2. Cut a small slit in a wedge of lime. Place it on the rim of a martini glass or tumbler and run it along the edge, making it moist enough for salt to stick.
  3. On a dish, spread a small amount of sea salt. Gently twist the glass rim-side down until the desired amount of salt has clung to its sides.
  4. Pour the shaker mixture into the glass and garnish with a wheel of lime. Enjoy!