Cooking from the Bar Cart: Mezcal Meets Melted Cheese

The agave spirit brings the smoke to this seductive queso fundido borracho


It’s no secret that alcohol and cheese are a popular pairing. Consider wine-and-cheese, beer cheese, rind-washed cheeses like Spain’s Drunken Goat, or gooey fondue spiked with liqueur or Champagne. Alcohol’s acidity not only cuts through the fatty richness of cheese, it heightens other flavors. In hot dishes like fondue and queso, it also helps the cheese melt evenly with less stringiness.

If you’ve ever been at a Mexican restaurant where the queso is lit on fire at the table, you’ve seen firsthand the spectacle of queso fundido flameado, or flaming melted cheese. A shot of booze—usually tequila—is poured on top of the queso and lit on fire to the oohs and aahs of diners. After the alcohol burns off, the queso is stirred and served. In this recipe for queso fundido borracho, or drunken melted cheese, mezcal makes an early appearance that leaves a lasting impression. Adding it to the pan with the chorizo and vegetables as they cook allows the alcohol to dissipate, leaving the agave spirit’s distinctive smoky essence behind. Queso is best enjoyed soon after the cheese melts. So spoon it into warm tortillas, scoop it up with chips, or dig in with pork rinds. Any way you eat it, good luck showing restraint.


  • Smoky Queso Fundido Borracho (Yield: 6 servings)

    • 4 oz. cooked ground chorizo sausage

    • 1 medium onion, diced (about 1 cup)

    • 1 poblano chile, roasted, peeled, seeded, and diced (see Note)

    • 1 large ripe tomato, seeded and diced

    • 1 large jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced

    • ¼ tsp. kosher salt

    • 2 oz. top-shelf mezcal (or blanco tequila)

    • Juice of ½ lime

    • 1 lb. Mexican Oaxaca (also called Asadero) or Monterey Jack cheese, cubed

    • 1 tsp. minced fresh cilantro

    • Warm tortillas, tortilla chips, or pork rinds


  1. Heat a small cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chorizo and onion and sauté, breaking up the sausage as it cooks, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and add the poblano, tomato, jalapeño, salt, mezcal (or tequila), and lime juice. Return the pan to medium-high heat and cook, stirring often, until liquid has mostly evaporated, about 3 minutes.

  2. Add the cheese cubes to the skillet over low heat, stirring often, until melted. Stir in the cilantro. Serve hot with warm tortillas, tortilla chips, or pork rinds.

  3. Note: To roast the poblano, hold it with tongs over the flame of a gas stove until charred on all sides. Alternatively, char over a grill or beneath a broiler. Place the charred chile pepper in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap for 10 minutes to steam. Remove stem and seeds and scrape away charred skin with a knife, but do not rinse. Dice flesh and proceed with recipe.

Katherine Cobbs is a cookbook author and editor. Her most recent books are Pantry Cocktails (2021), Tequila & Tacos (2020), and Cookies & Cocktails (2019), published by Simon & Schuster. She also developed recipes for Garden & Gun’s The Southerner’s Cookbook – Recipes, Wisdom, and Stories.