What is the difference between mezcal and tequila? It’s a question that many people ask, but few can answer. And it’s not just a difference in spelling: they’re two entirely different types of alcohol with their own unique histories, flavor profiles, and production processes.
You might be thinking, “I’ll just drink both!” But you should know that drinking too much of either type could make you sick–especially if you mix them! So before we go any further, let’s review some basic information about these two spirits to learn what the difference really is.
What is Mezcal?
Mezcal is a type of alcoholic beverage made from the maguey plant. It’s an agave-based liquor that comes in two varieties: “mezcal Blanco” and “mezcal Rojo.” Mezcal Blanco is unaged, while mezcal Rojo has been aged in wooden barrels or earthenware pots for at least one year.
Mezcal can be distilled with varying levels of intensity, depending on how long it’s fermented and what part of the agave plant is used to make it. The most commonly available types are light (or silver) mezcals which are clear in color and have a smoky flavor. Darker versions are typically stronger because they’ve been distilled from a higher concentration of the agave plant.
What is Tequila?
Tequila is a distilled beverage made from the blue agave plant. It’s aged in oak barrels, giving it its distinctive golden color and smoky flavor. Tequila is produced only in the Mexican state of Jalisco, which has strict regulations on how tequila can be made.
The best tequilas are crafted by slow-cooking the raw agave piñas (the heart of the plant) for 36 hours or more before they’re crushed, cooked again for 6-8 hours, then mashed to extract their juices. This process gives tequila its distinctively smooth taste and texture that set it apart from other liquors like rye whiskey or cognac.
The Difference Between Mezcal and Tequila
Mezcal and Tequila are part of the same family of drinks. They are made using the same base ingredient by fermenting agave, which is then distilled into a spirit with varying strengths. There are many similarities between these two liquors, but there are also some key differences.
Type of Agave Plant
Mezcal and Tequila are two liquors that many people enjoy but don’t know much about. The first key difference between these two liquors is the type of agave plant from which the liquor is derived. Nearly all Mezcal comes from a species of agave called Agave Americana, as opposed to Tequila which derives from Agave Tequilana. There are also different types of Mezcal that derive from other species of agaves as well as other plants; however, those are not as common.
The production methods for these two liquors also differ significantly. Most Tequila is produced using a method called “Tahona,” which involves crushing Agave plants to elicit fermentation, then distilling them several times before finally aging them in barrels made of either oak or cactus. This produces the distinct flavor of Tequila which, despite widespread belief, is not always made with blue agave plants.
Mezcal, on the other hand, uses a method called “Methanohalation” to produce its liquor (this process involves exposing cooked Agave juice to vaporized Methane for several days, which is what gives Mezcal its unique flavor). This process also often includes roasting the Agave plants in pits dug into the ground over several days before distilling them.
The most distinct difference in flavor between Mezcal and Tequila is that most varieties of Mezcal contain a worm (or gusano) in the bottle. This is due to two reasons:
- First, many producers of Mezcal allow the agave plants to ferment naturally prior to distillation which gives it a distinct flavor.
- Secondly, some producers believe that including the worm in the bottle will prove that their Mezcal is real and not counterfeit.
In addition to these differences in taste, mezcals like Del Maguey Chichicapa are aged for up to five years before they are sold (or even longer), while tequilas can be sold after just two weeks because they do not undergo fermentation beforehand. The result is that mezcals tend to be more complex than tequilas, but that doesn’t mean they are necessarily better.
The Other Differences
One of the first distinctions is in the production process; Mezcal is made by distilling agave twice, while tequila is distilled only once.
Tequila has to be made with at least 51% blue Weber agaves, whereas mezcal can be made with any variety of agave plants.
Tequila is often made with added sugars in the fermentation process, while mezcal has fewer additives.
Mezcal can be smoked after distillation, where tequila does not go through this step in the production process.
Mezcal also has an average alcohol content of 45% ABV compared to 40-50 for tequila, depending on how long it’s been aged.
Which One Should You Drink?
To answer this question, it will depend on your intended use.
Mezcal is most often consumed at the end of a meal, not on its own. It has a smoky flavor that can be enjoyed with desserts, fruit and cheese platters, or Cordele liqueur. Mezcal’s intense flavors make it difficult to share with friends during a happy hour or evening social gathering.
In contrast, I recommend you drink tequila over ice whenever the occasion allows–especially during weekend get-togethers when tacos and guacamole are on the menu. Tequila’s stronger flavor renders it an ideal ingredient in many Mexican dishes such as margaritas and Micheladas.
Where Can I Find Mezcal and Tequila?
-Tequila can be found in liquor departments at most stores
-Mezcal is typically only available at specialty liquor stores. You can also find Mezcal at Mexican restaurants.
The best way to find any product is to do an internet search based on their location. If this isn’t helpful, ask the assistance at the nearest store where you are. Chances are they have never seen them before but have heard of it being sold somewhere else or can place a phone call for you if needed!
If you’re looking for a spirit to pair with your favorite Mexican dishes, it’s important to know the difference between mezcal and tequila.
If you’re looking for a distinctive drink that will leave your taste buds tingling with delight, then Mezcal is the right one for you. If you want to enjoy something more mild and smooth with friends, go ahead and grab yourself some tequila instead. No matter which type of liquor suits your needs best or what occasion it’s being served at, both offer an enjoyable experience in their own way!