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A Short Lesson on Tequila and Mezcal

by Daniela Lee on July 06, 2021

 

Do you like tequila? How about mezcal? Well, I bet you didn't know that all tequilas are mezcals, but not all mezcals are tequilas – what?!

Technically speaking, tequila is an umbrella term for mezcal because the mezcal name is given to any liquor made from the agave plant. 

 Before we continue with today's lesson, let's start from the beginning with a little bit of history.

Did you know that tequila has been around since Aztec times? And tequila didn't start out as the fun drink we all know and love.

Research tells us that back in 200 A.D., the goddess Mayahuel gifted the Aztecs with pulque. During that era, pulque was considered sacred; only gods and priests were allowed to drink; however, it became the people's drink when the Aztec empire fell.

 It is believed that the Spanish came up with the distillation process for the agave plant to make tequila - which in those days resembled modern-day mezcal. By the 1600s, a Spanish nobleman, Marquis de Altamira, was the first to build a large-scale distillery in Tequila, Jalisco.

When the 1700s rolled around, tequila started being commercially produced, and by 1758 the famous Cuervo family began distilling tequila. In 1873 the Sauza family followed suit, and it was Don Cenobio Sauza himself, the one that identified blue agave as the best option for producing tequila. 

Now that we got that out of the way let's talk about the significant differences between tequila and mezcal. 

 For tequila to be classified as such, it must be made with blue agave (agave tequilana). It must be produced in Michoacán, Guanajuato, Nayarit, Tamaulipas, and Jalisco, where the town of Tequila is located.

In contrast, mezcal can be made with other types of agaves, such as tobalá, tobaziche, tepeztate, arroqueño, and espadín. 

Mezcal can be produced in Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, San Luan Luis Potosí, Tamaulipas, Zacatecas, Michoacán, Puebla, and Oaxaca. 

Both tequila and mezcal are made from the core of the agave plant or "piña." Tequila is produced by steaming the agave in an oven before being distilled 2-3 times in copper pots. 

Mezcal is made in underground pits filled with wood, volcanic rocks, and charcoal, then distilled in clay pots (This is what gives mezcal its smokiness.)

After the distillation process, they both are aged inside oak barrels; however, the aging categories vary slightly.

Tequila Blanco, or silver, is aged 0-2 months.

Tequila Reposado is aged 2-12 months.

Tequila Añejo 1-3 years.

Mezcal Joven, or Blanco is aged 0-2 months.

Mezcal Reposado is aged 2-12 months.

Mezcal Añejo at least 1 year.

Are you a tequila or mezcal lover? Comment below if you have any recommendations for us! Salud!


 

 

 

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