The Story Of: Mezcal


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Mezcal is often confused with tequila. However, they are two very different spirits and should not be confused with one another. Mezcal is another name for the maguey plant, as well as the generic name for spirits distilled from agave. Technically, tequila is a form of mezcal, not the other way around!

400 years ago, when the Spanish conquerors arrived in Mexico, they taught distillation techniques to the native inhabitants and the first distilled spirit in the Americas was born: Mezcal.
Mezcal can be made from 11 different types of agave that are native to Oaxaca, which is where these are mostly made. These agave include quishe, pasmo, tepestate, tobala, espadin, largo, pulque, azul, blanco, ciereago and mexicano, but around 90 percent of mezcal is made from the agave espadin. Mezcal is native to the states of San Luis Potosi, Michoacan, Jalisco, Durango, Morelos, Nuevo Leon, Oaxaca, Tamaulipas and Zacatecas. Oaxaca is considered the official home of mezcal, as it produces 60 percent of the country’s mezcal.

Producers of mezcal in Oaxaca still use the same traditional method of roasting the agave in underground wood-fired pits and distilling in small-batch, copper pot stills. This important drink of rustic Oaxaca is the traditional toast of ceremonial occasions, such as baptisms and weddings.

Like a whiskey or scotch, mezcal has many variations and characteristics as a result of the different types of agave that are used to produce it. The priciest mezcal, which is smooth, amber-colored and aged in oak barrels, can sell for more than $60 a bottle. The lower end of the spectrum is clear and throat-burning, and usually has a worm in it. Mezcal is also protected as an “Appellation of Origin,” and the Official Mexican Standard acts as a type of support in the process of certification, verification and monitoring of mezcal.


Check out the Mezcal Finalists and the Chairman’s Trophy Winner for spirits from this year’s Ultimate Beverage Challenge!

Photo courtesy of eugeniofv via Flickr/cc



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  • Snooth User: billyorknm
    228328 70

    Where do you get your top mezcal for $60? I want that deal. Del Maguey Pechuga costs me almost $200!

    Aug 09, 2012 at 12:53 PM

  • why are these posts always so superficial and silly? for instance here: mezcal and tequila are different, it says. But how? Tequila is a form of mezcal. What form is it? Mezcal is the name for the maguey plant. But what's the relation between that and agave? None of these obvious questions are answered.

    Aug 09, 2012 at 1:32 PM

  • Snooth User: rastusbear
    517073 12

    @stevenvogel -- agreed. I kept looking for the "next" button so I could continue reading and learning.

    Aug 09, 2012 at 1:53 PM

  • Snooth User: proxemia
    907466 39

    I will answer your questions my friends: Tequila is a form of mezcla , the difference is that tequila is made exclusevly with the Blue Agave variation of maguey. Mezcal is made from other maguey plants rather than the blue agave variety, mainly the espadìn variety. This agave plant has a more oaky flavour, and it generally tastes like smoke. Mezcal also has a very distinctive aroma (very different from tequila) . As for agave : agave and maqguey are synonims. Agave is a spanish word , maguey is a nahuatl (native mexican) word. They mean the same , the cactus like plant from where every mezcal (including tequila) is made from.

    Aug 09, 2012 at 7:05 PM

  • Snooth User: k2wiseguy
    1128056 19

    hey it''s not an encyclopedia article - it's meant to increase your interest.
    try google, anyone?

    Aug 12, 2012 at 10:37 PM

  • I would like to know where, in Cancun or other turistic cities in Mexico, we can buy good mezcal, like Del Maguey . I was told you can only find the cheap ones.

    Aug 13, 2012 at 5:35 PM

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