Mezcal Mania - Five facts you may not know about Mexico’s ‘other’ national spirit.

Posted on 22/01/2019 by Lukas James

What’s the difference between Mezcal and Tequila?

Don’t know the difference between Mezcal and Tequila? You’re not alone, but whilst both spirits are made from agave, that’s where the similarities end.

It can be a little confusing in that Tequila actually IS a mezcal in the same way that scotch and bourbon are both types of whiskey. Think Russian Nesting Dolls. The differentiating factor is that Tequila must be made from blue Weber agave whereas mezcal distillers, who tend to hail from Oaxaca, can ferment and distill from many alternative varieties.

It’s seriously on trend right now

Whilst it may be 500 years old, Mezcal is still considered a ‘new’ spirit in the international spirit market and it has exploding in popularity recently. Sales of mezcal has grown 600% between 2009 to 2017! With a market share of less than 400,000 cases per year, it may not be enough to move the needle against Tequila’s 34.7 million cases per year, but as more people are discovering it, this spirit is expecting a continued boom. Mezcal has become a mainstay in both off-premise and on-premise as a boutique sipping spirit and an upscale cocktail ingredient.

Demand is showing no sign of slowing down either, according to a market study by Future Market Insights, with predictions that US$ 840 Mn worth of mezcal will be consumed across the globe by the end of 2022.

Mezcal has some celebrity fans

You’d think that after selling a $1 billion company, you’d take a bit of time off, but fresh off the sale of their five-year old Tequila company, George Clooney and Rande Gerber pivoted to focus their attentions on the mezcal market. The pair leveraged their star power with the launch of their first mezcal brand late early in 2018 and enlisted celebrity endorsement with new member of the British Royal Family Jack Brooksbank as brand ambassador.

Another celebrity pair that turned their hand to mezcal (kinda) are Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine and Van Halen singer David Lee Roth. It is reported that the pair couldn’t decide whether to make a Tequila or mezcal so they mixed the paid and created ‘mezquila’ a hybrid between the two. Their brand Santo Mezquila launched in February 2017.

It packs a serious punch

Think of Mezcal as the wilder, bolder and more unpredictable cousin of tequila. Mezcal can regularly top 40% or higher in alcohol percentage, and whilst rumors of hallucinogenic effects are drastically overstated, it packs some serious potency.

“Small amounts of mezcal can add big flavor to cocktails,” Alexandra Anderson, a bartender in New Orleans bars Cure and Cane & Table explained to marketwatchmag. But start with the spirit on its own, “It’s a great way to introduce someone to the spirit, though I’d rather give people mezcal on its own so they can really taste it.

It is still prepared using traditional techniques

In order to produce mezcal, the heart of the plants, or 'piñas' are cooked using huge, earth pits. The large holes are lined with stones and heated using wood fired ovens. Agave fibre is used to dampen the flames and the cut agave are then loaded on top and baked for days under a covering of soil.

From here a stone wheel is used to squeeze the sugary liquid from the pulps and wild yeasts are used to achieve fermentation, which takes place in copper stills, heated by open fires.

From start to finish, it’s a very labor intensive process, all carried out by hand and with very little use of mechanized equipment. It’s truly one of the last bastions of untouched tradition in alcohol production.

Photo by Eddi Aguirre


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