Everything you need to know about these two Mexican libations.
If you’ve ever been to Mexico, you know the rapturous tones locals use to speak about mezcal. North of the border, we’re much more accustomed to tequila. In fact, most of us assume it is the drink of Mexico. There are lots of differences between the two drinks and knowing them can only add to the enjoyment.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES
Tequila is made from blue agave (agave tequilana).
Mezcal is made from any number of different varieties of agave.
► Roasting the Piña
Tequila is made by roasting the piña in an above ground oven.
Mezcal is made by roasting the piña in an (underground) pit.
Tequila is more neutral in flavour. Blanco or silver is aged in cask for less than two months, reposado for between 2 to 12 months, and anejo more than 1 year.
Mezcal exhibits a smoky flavour, and some say a richer more luxurious taste.
MAKE A COCKTAIL WITH TEQUILA
Tequila’s more subdued flavour is ideal for making cocktails, especially this beloved creation:
Rub a lime wedge around the rim of a chilled margarita glass and dip in a container filled with salt. Mix 2 oz blanco tequila, 3⁄4 oz lime juice and 1 oz Cointreau in a shaker filled with ice. Strain into glass. Garnish with a lime wheel.
Coa the sharp, long-handled tool used to remove the stalks from the piña.
Jimador a person who harvests agave.
Piña the sugar-rich portion of the agave that grows underground and is removed from the stalks to produce alcoholic spirits.
HOW TO SIP MEZCAL THE MEXICAN WAY
In Mexico, the drink is typically sipped straight to allow the deep, smoky characteristics to be appreciated. Often, to heighten the flavour sensation, it is sipped alongside perennial Mexican ingredients, lime and salt.
Take a small sip of the spirit, being careful not to breathe in
► Lime and Salt
Then bite a lime or orange dusted with salt
► Sip Again
Next, take another sip of the mezcal and then swallow, letting the flavours linger
This original article first appeared in the Fall 2018 issue of City Style and Living Magazine.