Tequila's Rustic Cousin
"Tequila is mezcal, but mezcal is not tequila." -Yira Vallejo, director of Mezcal From Oaxaca.
We, at La Rosa, take pride in being the first to introduce such an important part of Mexican food culture to Mongolia. Mezcal, much like tequila, is a distilled beverage made predominantly in Mexico - especially in Oaxaca - from many types of both wild and cultivated agave. Tequila, on the other hand, is made only from blue agave (Agave Tequilana), which is industrialized for the most part. Mezcal is considered to be more “hand-made” or artisanal, handled by one or more "mezcaleros".
Its signature smoky flavor comes from the production process prior to distillation. The hearts of the agave plants, the "piñas", are cooked in large earthen pits in the ground similar in style to that of making barbacoa. The cooked agave is then crushed, combined with water, and allowed to ferment. Then comes distillation. Once the mezcalero is satisfied with its fermentation, the crushed agave is distilled a first time. This yields a low-grade alcohol and the fibers are removed before the remaining liquid is distilled again to raise its alcohol content.
Interestingly, mezcal used to be called "vino de mezcal" or "mezcal wine" and just like wine has its different names like pinot noir or sauvignon blanc, mezcal has over 150 varieties, respective to the species of agave, such as tobala, and most commonly, espadin.
Now the fun part:
When you drink mezcal, be sure to do so in small sips. A common saying in Mexico is to "kiss" the mezcal or "the burning kiss of mezcal". Let it sit on your tongue just long enough to feel a slight tingle, hold your thumb to your lips and suck in some air to aerate the mezcal for its unique aromas. Finally, let yourself salivate and "swoosh" it around in your mouth. After the first sip, indulge as you wish.