Tequila is one of the most popular spirits in the world and almost all of us have ever tried it. But what about mezcal? What is it?
Mezcal is the national spirit of Mexico and one that is absolutely worth trying at least once in life, read on to learn more about this spirit.
What is Mezcal?
Historically, the term “Mezcal” has been applied to any agave spirit (the word literally means “oven-cooked agave”). It must be produced in Mexico and be distilled at least twice.
Mezcal was created when the Spanish who came to Mexico in the first quarter of the 1500s, brought with them the science of distillation and paired it with the locals' knowledge about the “magic” effect of the agave plant.
20-25 years ago Mezcal was considered a drink of the country people. Today, the product is competing in the gourmet spirits market and, as said before an absolutely worth trying libation.
Here's a quick Mezcal recipe:
Hearts of agave plants are baked to release the sugars, crushed to extract the sugary juice and then fermented to make alcohol. Then distilled twice to create the spirit, then it's aged and bottled.
But within those simple steps – lots of variations, adding different flavours and creating unique tastes according to wonderful old family recipes handed down through generations.
Smaller producers often make the spirit without any modern instruments, using just primitive tools and horse/donkey power like their ancestors used to do many years ago.
Mezcal vs Tequila
Mezcal is often confused with Tequila.
Tequila is in fact a type of mezcal meaning that all tequila is mezcal but not all mezcal is tequila.
Before we talk about what makes them different, let's see what makes them similar.
- They are both made in Mexico.
- Both made from the agave plant that is cooked, fermented, and distilled.
- Place of production:
Tequila is produced in 5 regions of Mexico — Michoacán, Guanajuato, Nayarit, Tamaulipas and Jalisco.
Mezcal can be made in 9 Mexican states: Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, San Luis Potosi, Tamaulipas, Zacatecas, Michoacán, Puebla and Oaxaca.
- Type of Agave:
Tequila is produсed from Blue Weber Agave only. There are over 30 types of agave plant that can be used to make mezcal. This variety gives Mezcal a wider range of tastes.
- Method of distillation:
Tequila and Mezcal are made very similarly, but there are a few key differences that make each spirit very unique and make them stand out from one another.
Depending on the brand or producer, a particular bottle of tequila can be distilled using traditional practices or mass-produced using stainless steel ovens and copper pot stills. Agave hearts also known as piña are cooked in steam ovens resulting in a clean agave nectar that can then be fermented and aged and bottled as tequila.
However, with mezal, the distillers will typically cook the core of agave plants in earthen pits filled with charcoal, lava rocks, firewood and let it burn for a couple of days to let the agave hearts infuse those smokey notes. Then they are distilled in traditional clay pot stills.
Tequila is considered an easier drink by most people, whereas mezcal has a lot of complexity and a lot of earthier tones.
How to drink Mezcal?
Traditionally, Mezcal is served neat in a small ceramic bowl called ‘copita’, while some serve it in a hollowed shell of a calabash fruit. Some people add a slice of orange and a salty larva-based powder. If you want something genuinely Mexican, make yourself an Old-fashioned that blends a smoky Mezcal, an Anejo Tequila, agave nectar and Angostura bitters.
New to mezcal? Start your meeting with this traditional Mexican spirit with the bottle of Ojo de Tigre!
Ojo De Tigre is a small batch mezcal produced using artisanal practices and two types of sustainable agave: espadín and tobalá. When harvested, they are cooked in an underground stone pit oven, then fermented naturally in wooden vats, and distilled twice in copper stills.
Try it neat, or make a smoky twist on Margarita.