The old adage goes, “All Tequila is Mezcal, but not all Mezcal is Tequila.” Mexico’s Mezcal spirit is made from the fermented and distilled sugars of agave plants. Unlike Tequila, which must use the Weber blue agave and be made within the designated Tequila appellation, Mezcal can be produced from one of dozens of agave species and doesn’t need to be made in a specific region.
Mezcal is traditionally produced on a small scale – not unlike artisanal distilling or craft brewing here in the United States – and is based on traditions that date back hundreds of years. Mezcal production is similar to that of Tequila, with a few distinctions. While the cores of the agave plants, or piñas, for Tequila are cooked in large ovens or pressure cooked, piñas for Mezcal are cooked in traditional underground ovens over a number of days. This gives Mezcal a smokier profile than Tequila. The juice from the cooked piñas is fermented in large vats, then distilled in a copper or clay still. The final product is a rustic spirit with a smoky backbone. Mezcal is typically served straight up, best enjoyed by sipping.