Bright and herbaceous, the Gracias a Dios mezcal plays well in cocktails. (photo courtesy of the distillery)

Editor’s note: For the next few weekends, we’ll focus on the splendors of agave.
Today, a heavenly variation on the Paloma; tomorrow (Dia de los Muertos), watch for something a bit more devilish.

While the Halloween and Dia de los Muertos holidays grow from the same source (the Catholic All Saints’ Day tradition), aside from some shared gothic and “scary” imagery, they don’t really share that much in common. The holiday in Mexico is less about kids and candy and more about honoring and celebrating death as an integral part of life. Here, we contemplate (and celebrate) dualities with an agave spirit aligned with the angels.

Gracias a Dios Espadin Blanco Mezcal ($43) 

This artisan mezcal operation in Matatlan, Oaxaca, is overseen by master mezcalero Oscar Hernandez. Could that beOscar himself—a mustachioed, halo-bearing angel—on the spirit’s label? The angelic hairdo looks like maybe it’s Diego Rivera, but it doesn’t strictly matter. Embossed on the glass you’ll also find the phrase “Il Pura Gozadera,” which loosely translated means, Pure Enjoyment.

And purity seems to be at the heart of the operation. The distillery produces joven mezcals from various single agave strains, including Tobala, Tepeztate, and Cupreata, as well as some flavored and some barrel-aged reposado mezcals. But the ubiquitous Espadin agave is the spirit source for Gracias a Dios’ core unbarreled joven offering.

It’s a bold winner. The nose is an easy, grassy botanical miasma. A strong hit of smokey, peppery spiciness is quick on the tongue and gives way to a nicely balanced herbal, almost fruity/minty, ride with a clean, dry end note.

You can generally use mezcal in any cocktails that call for tequila, and enjoy the somewhat different nature of the potion. But with a joven this botanical, less is more when you use it in a drink. This custom-modified Paloma recipe enhances Gracias a Dios’ Espadin Joven mezcal’s herbal nature, slightly edges off its bold starting note with some bittersweet grapefruit, and adds in a festive visual and flavor touch for the holiday weekend.

Párajo Ángel (Angel Bird)


Rocks glass

Saucer (for rim seasoning)

Seasonal Halloween stirrer (if desired)


2-3 standard ice cubes

2 x 1.5 oz. shots of Gracias a Dios Espadin mezcal

1 x 1.5 oz. shot of fresh, preferably ruby red or pink, grapefruit juice

Tajín Clásico seasoning (enough to coat the glass rim)


Shake a layer of Tajin seasoning into a saucer. (Comb the international aisle of your market for this Mexican spice product, which is most closely associated with the Michelada beer drink. Many Paloma recipes call for added ground chili, salt, and lime that can sully the base spirit; Tajin gives you those notes on the rim and leaves the mezcal pure in the glass. In a pinch, blend a little standard seasoned salt with some commercial chili powder for an apt substitute.)

–  Wet the rocks glass rim and gently stamp it into the seasoning in the saucer.

–  Place two cubes in the rocks glass, add the mezcal and the grapefruit juice.

–  Give the concoction a brisk stir with a skeleton swizzle stick, being careful to not knock off any of the rim dusting.

–  Work your way around the rim, getting a tongue-hit of spice before each sip.

Dios es bueno!