It’s no secret that mezcal has hit its stride in the U.S. Though nonexistent in the early cocktail lexicon, years of work from pioneers like Ron Cooper of Del Maguey alongside spirits educator Steve Olson and visionary bartenders like Phil Ward of Mayahuel helped to catalyze the versatility and nuance of mezcal in our palates over the last decade.

Not surprisingly, the most popular cocktail at the recently revamped downtown NYC’s Acme is an update to the classic Paloma with mezcal swapped in for tequila. Principal bartender of Employees Only, Dev Johnson — who created the bar’s cocktail menu — wanted to bring smoke, agave and heat to his Primito, or “little cousin.” Ancho Reyes, a liqueur made from dried and smoked poblano peppers, provides a subtle undertone to the mezcal, along with a house-made spiced grapefruit cordial to sweeten, fresh lime juice, prosecco and a garnish of dried Calabrian chili powder to brighten and balance.

Relatively straightforward in execution and appearance, this cocktail is full of complexity, while also framing the Vida mezcal, Del Maguey’s entry-level bottling, prominently. Though the terroir and transporting nature of single-village and rare agave mezcals are best appreciated neat, the Primito is a refreshing reminder of how a drink can pay homage to the craft of a spirit and still please a crowd.

Primito Cocktail

Servings: 1 cocktail
1 1/4 ounces Del Maguey Vida mezcal
3/4 ounce grapefruit cordial*
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
1/4 ounce Ancho Reyes
1 ounce prosecco

*For the grapefruit cordial (makes half a quart)
8 ounces fresh grapefruit juice
3 ounces fresh lime juice
30 crushed white peppercorns
1 star anise pod, ground with microplane
40 dashes Bitter Truth grapefruit bitters
12 ounces superfine sugar
Zest of 1 grapefruit


For the grapefruit cordial:

  1. In a quart container, combine all ingredients.
    2. Stir to dissolve sugar and store in the refrigerator for 2 days.
    3. Strain and keep refrigerated for later use.

For the Primito:

  1. Combine all ingredients except Prosecco into shaker tins and shake vigorously with ice.
    2. In a footed rocks glass, add a large ice cube and 1 ounce of Prosecco.
    3. Strain shaker over ice cube and Prosecco. Garnish with salt and dried pepper powder.

Prep Time: 2 minutes
Difficulty: Easy