Yerba mate is captivating bartenders worldwide as a “wonderchild” cocktail ingredient. Considering that yerba mate is an herb typically drunk hot like tea, its recent inclusion in cocktails may be surprising.
Or maybe not. Yerba mate is a flavorful, bitter, holly plant from South America that can create sophisticated tastes in any drink. Somewhat like bitters, yerba mate can make for a more bitter and full-bodied flavor.
Let’s go into what makes yerba mate an excellent cocktail ingredient, how it’s used, and the top five cocktail recipes out there today.
Why It’s a First-Rate Cocktail Ingredient
Yerba mate works as a cocktail ingredient for a variety of reasons.
The first reason is that yerba mate has a reputation for flavor. The herb is known to have an earthy, green taste that is often described as refreshing. This means it’s useful for combining with other flavors to create a delicate balance.
Yerba mate also contains caffeine, which will give any drink an energetic effect. Unlike coffee, the caffeine in yerba mate is slowly absorbed, so the experience of drinking a yerba mate cocktail is even and balanced.
Finally, the social aspect of yerba mate is interesting for the nightlife setting. Yerba mate is typically drunk in rounds of people who share it. This “pass it around” element of yerba mate makes it even more vibrant as a cocktail. Some bartenders also make mega-sized yerba mate cocktails that can be shared with friends.
How Yerba Mate is Incorporated in Cocktails
The way yerba mate is used in cocktails may not be immediately apparent. In a traditional mate, hot water is used to infuse the yerba mate. For cocktails, that’s not the best way to incorporate its flavor. Luckily, there are a few smart ways to include yerba mate:
Make it into a syrup: You can make a yerba mate syrup by brewing yerba mate in boiling water and adding sugar, plus any desired flavors and bitters. This syrup can even be stored and used over the course of a few weeks.
Infuse the yerba mate into the alcohol: Another way to highlight the yerba mate flavor is to steep into the alcohol itself. This can be done easily by adding yerba mate to the drink of your choice and leaving it to chill overnight.
Add ground yerba mate directly: Some cocktails may even add a tablespoon of ground yerba mate directly, as you would a mint sprig. This is usually the case when yerba mate isn’t the main event. Be careful with the amount: you don’t want drinkers to struggle with the loose leaves.
Add alcohol into the traditional yerba mate cup: Of course, this is not a typical cocktail you could order at a bar. However, some Latin cultures have the tradition of adding whiskey to the mate gourd itself. While it’s an interesting cultural practice - called mate con malicia in Chile - it’s not convenient for a bar setting.
Top Yerba Mate Cocktail Recipes
Yerba Mate Pisco Sour
You may already be familiar with a pisco sour, which is made from pisco alcohol, syrup, bitters, egg white, and lemon juice. This time, you can take pisco sour to the next level of bitterness by including yerba mate. The best way to add yerba mate is through a syrup.
To make the yerba mate syrup, use a simple 1-1-1 recipe: 1 cup of water, 1 cup of water and one large spoonful of yerba mate. Bring this mix to a boil in a pan until the sugar is completely dissolved. Then strain and cool the mix before adding to your pisco.
For the pisco part, you can use any pisco sour recipe and then add 1 oz. of your yerba mate syrup.
This creation by Valcohol puts a new twist on a typical Manhattan. As you know, a Manhattan is made with whiskey, vermouth, and bitters. However, in this variation, yerba mate syrup is added for extra flavor.
Once again, to make yerba mate syrup, all you need is water, sugar, and yerba mate, which you should boil in a pan and then strain and cool. You can even add the bitters to the syrup for a more potent taste.
Just add 1 oz. of the yerba mate syrup with a bit of orange peel, and you’ll have a Mate Manhattan that’s sure to impress!
Iced Yerba Mate Horchata
Nothing beats an iced yerba mate horchata in the height of summer. To make this splashy success, first shake together almond milk, cinnamon honey, and vanilla extract. Then add 4 oz. of brewed yerba mate that’s been already chilled. Finally, add a dash of spiced rum and some ice.
If you want to jazz it up, you can add a cinnamon stick, too! Iced horchata is beautifully flavored with a little yerba mate since it adds some bitter to the sweetness.
A gaucho margarita - as named by The Cocktail Lovers - is all about the tequila. You start by making an ordinary margarita made of tequila, orange liqueur, and lime juice. At the same time, you should make a yerba mate syrup to add-in.
As mentioned, you can make the syrup by adding water, sugar, and yerba mate leaves into a saucepan, then straining and chilling. Once it’s ready, add 1 oz. of yerba mate syrup to the margarita and whip it up with ice for a chill summer treat.
The Busy Bee
This cocktail takes a classic, the Bees Knees, which typically consists of gin, lemon juice, and honey. But for that extra pizzazz, this cocktail recipe from Bit by a Fox adds honey yerba mate syrup!
Here’s how you make it: 2 oz. of gin, 1 oz. of lemon juice and 1 oz. of honey yerba mate syrup. Don’t worry; the honey yerba mate syrup is quite easy to make. Just brew one cup of yerba mate and add it to a saucepan. Then add one cup of honey, stirring until it dissolves. Chill it, then add 1 oz. to your cocktail.
You’ll love the buzz of this Busy Bee cocktail.
Yerba Mate Cooler
Another zippy cocktail is the yerba mate cooler. This simple recipe is easy enough to come up with. Just brew 2 oz. of yerba mate and chill it. Then add 2 oz. of pink grapefruit juice, 2 oz. of tequila, and a dash of ginger syrup and lime juice. Finally, pour it over the sparkling water, and you have a well-balanced cooler.
This sweet delight is much more flavorful with the slight aftertaste of bitter yerba mate. It makes for a real summer blend. Now that’s the stuff.
The Carlos Gardel
Last but not least, the Carlos Gardel - named by La Pulperia - is a love letter to the tango composer Carlos Gardel.
This drink uses vodka as a base. Add brewed and chilled yerba mate with lemon, lime, and orange juice for a cocktail that bursts with color and flavor. It’s like a screwdriver with more flavors.
If you’re feeling innovative behind the bar, these yerba mates infused cocktail recipes are just the trick. Yerba mate is a great way to balance your drink and get complex flavors.
We’re a massive fan of these lovely and easy-to-make cocktail recipes that use yerba mate in all the best ways. Bottoms up!