Alcohol Education: 10 Mandatory Facts to Know About Mezcal
Sure, you’ve had your experiences with tequila over the years. Some of them have been good and some have been bad. You’ve probably taken your fair share of harsh late-night shots and sipped on potent, yet well-balanced margaritas. But, in all of your tequila enjoyment did you ever push it aside in favor of mezcal? Probably not.
It’s no secret that when it comes to Mexican spirits, tequila is king. But, you’d be remiss if you didn’t try the country’s second most well-known spirit. You might be saying that you haven’t grabbed a bottle of mezcal because you don’t know much about it. Well, after today you will. That’s because we’ve decided to list all of the most important mezcal facts you need to know. Check them all out below.
Photo: Guillermo Vásquez (Getty Images)
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All tequila is mezcal, but not all mezcal is tequila.
You might not realize that the broad term for agave-based spirits is mezcal. So technically tequila is a kind of mezcal. But, mezcal definitely isn’t a type of tequila. Get it?
Mezcal rules aren’t as strict as tequila.
While tequila must be made in Jalisco (and a handful of other states) and can only be produced using the blue Weber agave, mezcal can be made in any of eight states (although it’s usually made in Oaxaca) and can be made using any agave.
No, your mezcal won’t have a worm in it.
Over the years, many people have believed that authentic bottles of the spirit should contain a worm (or larvae). But, they’re wrong. The practice came from an advertising campaign in the 1950s and never really existed.
Mezcal lore involves an errant lightning bolt.
According to legend, the first mezcal was made when a lightning bolt hit an agave plant, cracking it open and cooking the juice inside. This is one of the reasons mezcal gained the moniker “elixir of the gods.”
The word ‘mezcal’ comes from the Aztecs.
The origin of mezcal is deeply rooted in Mexican tradition. Mezcal comes from “mexcalli” which means “cooked agave” in Aztec.
Mezcal has a historically bad reputation.
There’s a reason tequila gets more respect than mezcal. It’s because up until 1990, people believed that mezcal was just garbage tequila due to there being little to no regulations.
The people who make mezcal have a cool name.
The title for a mezcal distiller is “maestro mezcalero,” which roughly translates to “mezcal conductor.” So, you could say the people making mezcal are producing a symphony of flavor.
Mezcal is smoky, while tequila isn’t.
Mezcal has a subtle smoky flavor because the traditional method of breaking down the agave (before fermentation) is to cook the agave hearts in a pit in the ground using hot coals for multiple days.
You can thank Spain for your mezcal.
Spanish conquistadors brought distilling techniques from Europe. If they had never landed in Central America, we might not have tequila or mezcal today.
Mezcal doesn’t make you hallucinate.
There’s no truth to the rumor that drinking mezcal will make you hallucinate. That idea probably started when people confused the word mezcal with the hallucinogenic mescaline.