Category: Beverages

mezcal and tequila

In the realm of Mexican spirits, two names reign supreme: Mezcal and Tequila. Both boast rich histories, distinct flavors, and devoted followings. Yet, for the uninitiated, discerning the disparities between these two beloved liquors can be as daunting as deciphering hieroglyphs. Fear not, for we’re about to embark on a spirited journey to demystify the stories of Mezcal and Tequila.

A Historical Prelude of Mezcal and Tequila

The origins of both spirits intertwine with the ancient civilizations of Mexico, dating back centuries before the arrival of Spanish conquistadors. 

Mezcal’s roots are deeply entrenched in indigenous cultures, particularly those of Oaxaca, where it’s believed to have originated. Produced from the agave plant, known as the “maguey,” mezcal has been a sacred elixir, revered in rituals and ceremonies. Its production methods have remained relatively unchanged, employing traditional techniques passed down through generations.

A mezcal distillery in Oaxaca, Mexico.

A mezcal distillery in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Tequila, on the other hand, hails primarily from the Jalisco region, although its production has expanded to other areas of Mexico. It shares a common ancestor with mezcal in the agave plant, but its story diverges with the arrival of Spanish colonizers. The distillation process was introduced by the Spanish in the 16th century, evolving over time to create the distinct spirit known as tequila.

The Agave Alchemy

While both mezcal and tequila are derived from the agave plant, their production processes and agave varieties differ significantly.

Mezcal is often referred to as the artisanal cousin of tequila, prized for its complex flavors and artisanal production methods. It can be crafted from various species of agave, each imparting its unique characteristics to the final product. The heart of the agave, known as the piña, is roasted in earthen pits lined with volcanic rocks, giving mezcal its signature smoky flavor.

Tequila, on the other hand, is distilled specifically from the blue agave plant (Agave tequilana Weber). Its production is tightly regulated by Mexican law, with strict guidelines governing everything from cultivation to bottling. Tequila is typically produced in large-scale distilleries, utilizing modern techniques such as steam ovens or autoclaves to cook the agave. The resulting spirit tends to be smoother and more refined than its mezcal counterpart.

Blue agave plantation

Blue Agave Plantation in Jalisco, Mexico.

Tasting the Terroir

One of the most fascinating aspects of mezcal and tequila is their ability to capture the essence of their respective regions.

Mezcal embodies the diverse landscapes of Mexico, with each bottle reflecting the terroir of its origin. From the rugged mountains of Oaxaca to the arid deserts of Durango, the flavor profile of mezcal is as diverse as the land itself. Smoky, earthy, and sometimes even floral, mezcal offers a sensory journey through the heart of Mexico.

Tequila, too, is a product of its environment, with factors such as altitude, soil composition, and climate influencing its flavor profile. The highlands (Los Altos) of Jalisco are known for producing tequilas with fruity and floral notes, while the lowlands (Valles) yield spirits with earthier undertones. Whether it’s the crisp sweetness of blanco or the oaky richness of añejo, tequila showcases the distinctive flavors of its birthplace.

Our Top Picks

Simone Peterson, our resident expert of all libations, offers up these top mezcal and tequila picks that you can find at our stores:

Tequila

  • 21 Seeds Cucumber Jalapeno
  • Rancho La Gloria Reposado
  • Single Estate Ocho Reposado

Mezcal

  • Del Maguey Vida
  • Casamigo Mezcal
  • Santo Mezquila

Closing Thoughts

We certainly love both of these amazing adult beverages, here at Nino Salvaggio International Marketplace. They are kindred spirits with distinct personalities, each offering a glimpse into the rich tapestry of Mexican culture and tradition. While mezcal captivates with its rustic charm and artisanal allure, tequila dazzles with its refined elegance and storied heritage.

So, the next time you raise a glass of mezcal or tequila, take a moment to savor not just the spirit itself but the centuries of craftsmanship and culture that have shaped it. In doing so, you’ll not only taste the essence of Mexico but also honor the timeless art of agave alchemy. Salud!


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