Few beverages hold as much mystique as tequila!
The prized Mexican pick-me-up drink bring to mind imaginations of oversized sombreros, mariachi bands, and salt-rimmed margaritas. Tequila is the most misinterpreted liquor, surrounded by years of folk tale and fables.
The weber blue agave, is the origins of how Tequila is made. The core of the plant contains aguamiel (honey water), is the sap of the Mexican maguey plant which is believed to have therapeutic qualities.
All tequila must be produced using blue agave. So in essence, Tequila is Plant-Based. In fact, Tequila is a Mezcal but mezcal is not Tequila! Confused?
According to Mescal PHD, there are three key reasons why mezcal is different from tequila:
- Tequila and mezcal are produced in different states of Mexico (though there is overlap).
- Tequila can only be made, by law, with one variety of agave: the Blue Agave. Mezcal can be made with upwards of 30 varieties of agave, though most are made with the Agave Espadin.
- The production process for mezcal is different from tequila which leads to a distinctly different flavor profile for mezcal.
All tequilas are mezcals… Now I’m really confused!?
Tequila must be made from the Blue Agave. Mezcal, on the other hand, can be made from more than 30 varieties of agave, including the Blue Agave.
The Agave plant have these long spear-like leaves. When they harvest the Agave the leaves are sheared off and what’s left is called the “pina” which looks like a large pineapple.
With tequila, the pinas are cooked in large industrial ovens, with large, stainless-steel industrial pressure cookers.
With artisanal mezcal, the process is much more handcrafted and follows the process that has been used for hundreds of years. With artisanal mezcal production, the pinas are cooked in an underground, earthen pit.
It is lined with volcanic rock. A fire is started in the bottom with wood. This fire burns to the embers heating the volcanic rocks to extreme heat. The pinas are then piled into the pit and covered with about a foot of earth. This underground “oven” now smokes, cooks and caramelizes the pina over a multi-day cooking process.
It’s because of this underground baking process that gives the smoky flavor to a mezcal.
So when you see a premium mezcal for $50, $60, or even $100 a bottle, know that you are paying for a bottle of drinkable art that has been made this way since the 1600’s.
This is why mezcal at the basic level is different than tequila.