Mezcal has become a popular spirit in recent years, with bartenders and spirits enthusiasts alike embracing its smoky flavour and complexity. While tequila has long been the more well-known Mexican spirit, mezcal has been steadily gaining recognition and appreciation for its unique character.
The Agave plant takes up to 12 years to reach maturity.
Mezcal is made in small batches by artisanal producers who use traditional methods passed down through generations, giving it a distinct and authentic quality that cannot be found in mass-produced spirits. Its growing popularity has also led to a wider variety of mezcal styles being made available, from single varietal mezcals to blended mezcals with unique flavour profiles. With its rich cultural history and artisanal production methods, mezcal offers a truly authentic and unique experience for those looking to explore the world of spirits.
Traditional process of cooking Agave still used today.
Mezcal has a long and rich history in Mexico, dating back to pre-Columbian times. The word "mezcal" comes from the Nahuatl language and means "oven-cooked agave". It was originally made by indigenous peoples for ceremonial purposes, and later became a popular drink among the masses.
Mezcal is made from the heart of the agave plant, also known as the piña. Unlike tequila, which can only be made from blue agave and must be produced in specific regions of Mexico, mezcal can be made from over 30 varieties of agave and can be produced in nine different states in Mexico. Mezcal production is highly regulated, and the process is carried out by small-scale producers known as palenqueros. The piñas are roasted in underground pits lined with volcanic rocks, which gives mezcal its signature smoky flavour. After roasting, the piñas are crushed, fermented, and distilled.
Fermented product is then distilled like any spirit.
Mezcal is a diverse and versatile spirit, and it offers a wide range of styles and flavours to suit every taste. The two broad categories of mezcal, which were mentioned earlier, can be further explored in greater detail.
Mezcals made exclusively from the agave plant are the most traditional style of mezcal. They are often considered to be the most authentic expression of the spirit. These mezcals are made from a single variety of agave, which is carefully selected by the palenquero for its unique flavour profile. Some of the most popular single varietal mezcals include Espadín, Tobalá, Tepextate, and Madrecuishe.
Blended mezcals, on the other hand, are made from a combination of different agave varieties. The palenquero may choose to blend several varieties to create a more complex flavour profile, or they may blend to achieve a certain consistency in taste from batch to batch. Some of the most popular blended mezcals include San Luis del Río, which is a blend of Espadín and Barril agaves, and Del Maguey Vida, which is a blend of Espadín and wild agaves.
Flavoured mezcals are a newer addition to the mezcal market, and they are becoming increasingly popular. These mezcals are infused with a variety of ingredients, such as fruit, spices, or even insects, to create unique and exciting flavour profiles. Some of the most popular flavoured mezcals include those infused with mango, hibiscus, coffee, and even scorpions.
Another interesting style of mezcal is joven mezcal, which is unaged and bottled immediately after distillation. Joven mezcals are typically the most affordable style of mezcal, and they are known for their intense smoky flavour and raw, earthy character.
Mezcal producers are predominantly family run and owned.
Mezcal is often served with a side of sliced oranges sprinkled with ground worm salt, a mix of dried chilli peppers and ground worms. It might sound strange, but it's actually delicious and adds a unique flavour to the drink.
Mezcal is often associated with the worm found at the bottom of the bottle, but this is a myth. The worm is actually a marketing ploy that was started in the 1940s to increase sales to tourists.
Mezcal is traditionally consumed neat or in cocktails, but it can also be used in cooking. The smoky flavour adds depth to dishes like salsas, marinades, and stews.
Mezcal has gained a reputation as a "hipster" drink, but it has deep cultural roots in Mexico and is an important part of its history and heritage.
Mezcal is a fascinating and complex spirit with a rich history and a unique production process. If you haven't tried it yet, it's definitely worth giving it a shot. And remember, always drink responsibly!