Oaxaca Old-Fashioned Recipe

Oaxaca Old-Fashioned Recipe

The Oaxaca old-fashioned is a modern classic in the cocktail world. It showcases the intriguing combination of tequila and mezcal in a relatively unadulterated form, and, as with many of the best cocktails, it’s an extremely simple drink recipe. The intriguing, well-balanced flavor makes it a delightfully casual sipper that’s a great choice when you want to explore the array of tastes available in different mezcals.

This drink was created in 2007 by New York City bartender Phil Ward when he worked at Death & Co. What would become one of the best-known mezcal cocktails, the Oaxaca old-fashioned was later the featured drink at Ward's own agave spirit-focused NYC bar Mayahuel (closed in 2017). The drink helped transform perceptions of mezcal, introduce the spirit to a larger American audience, and named after the Mexican state of Oaxaca, where the majority of mezcal is produced.

Influenced by the classic whiskey old-fashioned formula—base spirit, sweetener, and bitters—this cocktail mixes the oaky nuance of reposado tequila with the richer fruit and spice notes of joven (unaged) mezcal. Depending on how it’s made, mezcal can also have a smoky aspect that is either subtle or very pronounced, meaning this cocktail can have a slightly different taste depending on which brand of mezcal you use. Agave nectar and bitters round off the drink wonderfully. While this variation opts for chocolate bitters for a hint of rich spice, Ward’s original recipe uses aromatic bitters.

“The Oaxacan Old-Fashioned is a famous variation on one of the oldest known cocktails. Phil Ward spent considerable time learning about mezcal and designed a perfect vehicle for introducing thirsty New York cocktail enthusiasts to the once polarizing spirit. This is the spot-on recipe used in New York cocktail bars today.” —Sean Michael Johnson

A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 1 1/2 ounces reposado tequila

  • 1/2 ounces mezcal, preferably joven

  • 1/4 ounce agave nectar

  • 2 dashes bitters

  • Orange peel, for garnish

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients to make an Oaxaca old-fashioned

    The Spruce Eats / Madhumita Sathishkumar

  2. In an old-fashioned glass with a couple of small ice cubes (or one large ice cube), pour the tequila, mezcal, agave nectar, and bitters. Stir well for about 20 seconds to relax and marry the flavors.

    Mixing tequila, mezcal, agave nectar, and bitters in an old-fashioned glass

    The Spruce Eats / Madhumita Sathishkumar

  3. Flame the orange peel over the drink, drop it in the glass, and serve.

    Oaxaca old-fashioned served with a flamed orange peel

    The Spruce Eats / Madhumita Sathishkumar


  • This drink is often served on the rocks. For less dilution, go with a single large ice cube or ball. If you want the flavors to soften as you drink, use smaller cubes, which will melt faster.
  • You can also stir the drink in a mixing glass and strain it into a coupe glass, which is how it was originally served.
  • To flame an orange peel, light a long match or lighter in front of a large piece of peel (the outer peel should face the drink) as you squeeze it sharply. This expresses oils into the cocktail and creates tiny sparks.

Recipe Variations

Try different combinations of tequila and mezcal. Añejo tequilas are an excellent option because they’re aged longer than reposados and will have more oak notes. The taste of mezcal varies greatly from one brand to the next; it’s dependent on the type of agave used and the production methods. As you explore these options, you may find it necessary to tweak the other ingredients:

  • The original Oaxaca old-fashioned uses Angostura aromatic bitters. Another excellent option is the slightly chile-spiced taste of mole bitters, and you can also try a combination of bitters. The subtle flavor accent can really transform this drink into something new.
  • Use less agave nectar if you want a drink that’s a little less sweet. You might find a bit more nectar is necessary with smokier mezcals.

How Strong Is the Oaxaca Old-Fashioned?

The average strength of both mezcal and tequila is 40 percent alcohol by volume (ABV, 80 proof), though some are stronger. If you make the Oaxaca old-fashioned with two 80-proof spirits, the drink mixes up to about 29 percent ABV (58 proof). That’s just a little weaker than drinking either spirit straight and why the drink is served short at a little under three ounces.

What’s the Difference Between Tequila and Mezcal?

Tequila and mezcal are both Mexican liquors distilled from maguey (or agave) plants. While they are similar, regulations for each spirit set standards for what agave varieties may be used, where and how they can be produced, and the various classes that appear on labels. Mezcal is regularly regarded as a more rustic liquor—though modern production is quite industrialized—and the harvested agave are traditionally roasted in earth or stone pits. This imparts the smokiness that mezcal is known for (some are not smoky) and a slight sweetness; neither of these is a flavor profile commonly found in tequila.

What Does Reposado Mean?

"Reposado" translates from Spanish to mean "rested." It's a term used to classify certain tequilas and mezcals which spend a short amount of time aging in barrels. For both spirits, a reposado is aged between two months and one year. Añejo tequila and mezcal are aged longer, while blanco (or silver) tequila and joven (or blanco) mezcal are unaged. Joven tequila is actually a blended tequila.


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