What is Mezcal?

What is Mezcal?

 In this article, we will delve into the world of Mezcal, exploring its origins, production methods, and the rich tapestry of flavors that make it a beloved beverage both in Mexico and around the world.

A Brief History

The history of Mezcal dates back more than 400 years, to the time of the Spanish conquistadors who arrived in Mexico in the early 16th century. The term "mezcal" is derived from the Nahuatl word "mexcalli," which means "cooked maguey," referring to the agave plant from which Mezcal is made. Indigenous peoples of Mexico were already fermenting and distilling agave long before the arrival of the Spaniards, making Mezcal one of the oldest distilled spirits in the Americas.

Production Process

Mezcal is made from the agave plant, specifically the Agave spp. species, which includes over 200 varieties. While Tequila is made primarily from the Blue Weber agave, Mezcal can be produced from various agave species, contributing to its diverse range of flavors and aromas. The production of Mezcal is a labor-intensive and time-honored process, typically consisting of the following steps:

1. Harvesting: The leaves of the agave plant are stripped away, leaving the heart, or "piña," which resembles a large pineapple. These piñas can weigh up to several hundred pounds and contain the sugars necessary for fermentation.

2. Cooking: The piñas are traditionally roasted in underground pit ovens, giving Mezcal its signature smoky flavor. This process can take several days, and the smokiness level can vary depending on the duration and wood used for the fire.

3. Crushing: After cooking, the piñas are crushed, often by a large stone wheel called a "tahona" or using more modern methods, like mechanical shredders. This extracts the agave juice, which is then fermented.

4. Fermentation: The agave juice is fermented in wooden or stone vats for several days. Wild yeast and natural bacteria are often used to initiate the fermentation process, adding complexity to the flavor profile.

5. Distillation: The fermented juice is then distilled in small copper or clay pot stills. Mezcal is typically distilled twice, although some artisanal varieties may undergo multiple distillations.

6. Bottling: After distillation, Mezcal is typically diluted to the desired alcohol content with pure water and then bottled.

Flavor Profile

The diverse range of agave species, coupled with variations in production methods, leads to a wide array of Mezcal flavors. Common tasting notes include smoky, earthy, herbal, fruity, and even floral elements. Mezcal's smokiness, in particular, is a hallmark of the spirit and is often described as a campfire or roasted agave aroma.

Mezcal is typically enjoyed straight, sipped slowly to savor its complex flavors. It can also be used in cocktails, with the most famous being the Margarita's smokier cousin, the "Mezcalita." Mezcal's versatility has gained it popularity in the craft cocktail scene worldwide.

Appreciation and Ritual

Mezcal is more than just a beverage; it is an integral part of Mexican culture and heritage. It has deep roots in rituals and traditions, often being used in ceremonies and celebrations. It is also associated with the Mexican concept of "terroir," where the agave plant's characteristics, the soil it grows in, and the production methods all contribute to the unique flavor of Mezcal from different regions.


Mezcal is a spirit with a rich history, diverse flavors, and a cultural significance that transcends borders. Its artisanal production methods, unique smokiness, and complex flavor profile make it a drink worth exploring and savoring. Whether enjoyed straight or in cocktails, Mezcal offers a taste of Mexico's rich traditions and the chance to experience a true embodiment of its spirit. So, the next time you're in search of an authentic and distinctive drinking experience, raise a glass of Mezcal and toast to the ancient heritage and vibrant culture it represents.



Back to blog