Mezcal is a distilled alcoholic beverage that's a product of the agave plant. Its name comes from the Nahuatl, or Aztec, language and means "oven-cooked tequila," which sounds like a half-baked dorm experiment but, surprisingly, is a legitimate way to create alcohol.
How Is Mezcal Different From Tequila?
Mezcal is not the same as tequila, despite their similarities. Just think about how bacon and ham come from a pig. They're both delicious, but obviously not the same thing. Although both mezcal and tequila are made from the agave plant, their distillation varies greatly.
Tequila is a mezcal, but the opposite is not true. Tequila is only produced from the blue agave plant grown in the Mexican state of Jalisco, while 28 different types of agave are the source of mezcal. Most mezcal is distilled from Espadin agave grown in Oaxaca, Durango, Guerrero, Zacatecas, and San Luis Potosi. No, these aren't a list of America's best Mexican restaurants, but rather Mexican states.
What Are the Different Varieties of Mezcal?
Mezcal is like the new band you saw that was so good you want to tell everyone to give them a try. Plus, it has a ton of varieties. It's generally divided into five categories:
How Should You Drink Mezcal?
Unlike tequila, mezcal doesn't conjure up visions of Spring Break your sophomore year of college. It's better sipped than slammed out of a monster shot glass. Mexicans and regular drinkers pair it with orange slices topped with salt. If you can get your hands on it, worm salt is the preferred type. It's a particular type of Mexican worm, so don't dig up your backyard and mash together earthworms with salt. It just won't be the same.
How to Select a Mezcal?
If you're new to mezcal, Espadin is for you. It's smoky with hints of sweetness, making it easy to drink. Plus, the price is right, as it's generally comparable to tequila. Tepeztate and Oaxacan varieties can easily go for $100 and up, but they're well worth the price if you find yourself loving the taste of mezcal. Or if you just won the lotto.