You might know both mezcal and tequila come from agave plants, but they're not the same drink. Tequila is made only from blue Weber agave, Mezcal, on the other hand, can be made from more than 300 types of agave. That's a lot more flavors to enjoy. Plus, mezcal's got that smoky kick because they cook the agave in wood-fired ovens. Tequila doesn't do that.
Tequila's big in Mexico, but mezcal's been getting famous in the United States and other places too. People are starting to get how special mezcal is, especially with its unique taste and how they make it by hand. It's not just another bottle; it's a piece of art, in liquid form.
So, cocktails. Yeah, each spirit has its own best fit. If you're into smoky and bold, think mezcal. You can use it in drinks like the smoked margarita or mezcal negroni. If you want something a bit lighter, then tequila's your guy. Good for classic drinks like the margarita or the Paloma.
What are Tequila and Mezcal?
Tequila comes from blue Weber agave. They make it mostly in a region called Jalisco in Mexico. The law even says true tequila can only come from this area and a few other places in Mexico. They cook the agave in big ovens, then crush it to get the juice out. This juice gets fermented and distilled to make tequila. Some tequilas are clear and others have a golden color because they are put in barrels for some time.
Mezcal is a bit different. You can make it from many types of agave, over 300 actually. Most of it comes from Oaxaca, another place in Mexico. They cook the agave in pits in the ground, filled with hot rocks. This gives mezcal its smoky flavor. Then, just like tequila, they crush the cooked agave, get the juice, and distill it. Some people even put a worm in the bottle but that's more of a gimmick. Each type of agave gives a different taste, so mezcal has lots of flavors to try.
How is it made?
Blue Weber agave is cooked in industrial ovens or autoclaves.
When making tequila, the first big step is cooking the blue Weber agave. This type of agave is special to tequila. It gets cooked in big ovens that are either industrial ovens or autoclaves. These are like pressure cookers, but much bigger. The cooking makes the agave soft and helps to turn its starch into sugar. This is key because sugar is what turns into alcohol later on.
The agave is then shredded and fermented.
After cooking, the agave is shredded. Think of it like giant juicers breaking it down. This helps to get all the sugary juice out of it. This juice is then put in large tanks to ferment. Yeast is added to eat the sugar and turn it into alcohol. This usually takes up to a week, and at the end, you have what's called “agave beer.”
The fermented agave juice is then distilled twice.
The next step is to distill the fermented juice, not just once but twice. This removes any extra stuff that you don't want in your tequila. It also makes the alcohol stronger. The first distillation gives you a liquid that's not that strong, and the second round boosts the alcohol level to where it needs to be.
Any type of agave can be used.
Unlike tequila, mezcal is not picky about the type of agave. You can use over 300 types, actually. Each type offers a different flavor, making each batch of mezcal unique.
The agave is cooked in underground pits lined with volcanic rock.
Here's where the smoky flavor of mezcal comes from. The agave is cooked in pits in the ground that are lined with hot volcanic rocks. This old-school method gives mezcal its unique taste that sets it apart from tequila.
The agave is then shredded and fermented.
Just like tequila, the cooked agave is shredded to extract its juice. Then, this juice is fermented, but often in wooden vats or even animal hides. This adds to the flavor and makes mezcal stand out.
The fermented agave juice is then distilled once or twice.
The fermented juice is distilled, but this time, it might be once or twice, depending on the type of mezcal. This process makes sure the flavor is strong and the alcohol level is right.
When you sip tequila, the first thing to hit your palate is a clean, crisp flavor. It's what you call “agave-forward,” the taste of blue Weber agave is front and center. This is the essence of tequila and what sets it apart from other spirits. Along with that, you might notice additional hints. Sometimes, there's a touch of citrus, like a slice of lemon or lime. Other times, you catch softer notes of vanilla or even a whisper of caramel. These subtle flavors make tequila versatile and ideal for mixing in cocktails or enjoying neat.
On the flip side, mezcal greets you with a smoky, earthy character. If tequila is the well-mannered guest at the party, mezcal is the intriguing stranger that everyone wants to know better. The smokiness comes from the underground cooking process, and it's the signature mark of mezcal. But there’s more to explore. As you sip further, you'll find layers of complexity: fruitiness that might remind you of a summer peach, herbal tones that might bring to mind a freshly picked sprig of mint, and even a bit of spice to round it all out.
How are they similar and different?
Both apples and oranges are fruits. They grow on trees and are perfect for eating fresh or making juice. A quick wash and they're ready for you to enjoy.
- Both fruits, no question about it.
- Grown on trees, easy enough.
- You can eat them as they are or juice them, your choice.
Apples and oranges are far from the same. The skin of an apple is thin and you can munch on it without a second thought. On the other side, oranges have thick skin that you need to peel off before eating. When it comes to color, apples can be red or green, while oranges are, well, orange.
- Apple skin is thin and ready for you to eat.
- Orange skin is thick, peel it off first.
- Apples play with colors, red or green; oranges stick to being orange.
|Agave used||Blue agave||Any species of agave|
|Region of production||Jalisco, Mexico||Oaxaca, Mexico|
|Required aging||Blanco: None; Reposado: Up to two months; Añejo: At least two months and up to one year||Joven: None; Reposado: Up to two months; Añejo: At least two months and up to one year|
|Typical flavor profile||Smoother, more refined; earthy, vegetal||Smokier, more complex; earthy, vegetal, fruity, floral|
- Tequila sunrise
- Tequila soda
- Smoked margarita
- Mezcal negroni
- Mezcal old fashioned
- Mezcal mule
Tequila vs Mezcal: Which is better?
Tequila and mezcal, are both legendary drinks, yet so different. Tequila is the go-to for a fun night. It's smooth and straightforward, with flavors like citrus and vanilla. It's what you want in a Margarita or a Paloma. It's the easy choice for a gathering or to get the party started.
Mezcal, on the other hand, is the complex cousin. It's got layers, with smoky and earthy tones that can get really intricate. It's not just about the taste, but also the experience. When you sip on a mezcal Negroni, it's an adventure for your palate. The smokiness of mezcal stands out, making it a drink you savor slowly.
Here's the thing. You can't really say one is better than the other. It's more about what you're feeling. If you want something easygoing and flexible, tequila is your drink. If you're looking for depth and a rollercoaster for your taste buds, go for mezcal.