Explore the wonderful world of mezcal with Curiada home delivery.
Ah, mezcal. Wild, natural, untamed. Its is the less talkative, more mysterious, slightly unkempt cousin of its better known and more refined agave spirit, tequila. But, behind that air of mystery is a spirit so unique, so powerful, and so sophisticated that it can be drunk neat, on the rocks, or in cocktails where its smokiness and sweetness transform tired classics into cutting edge riffs.
What is mezcal?
Mezcal is a distilled alcoholic spirit made from the agave plant, primarily in Mexico’s Oaxaca region. Crafted from the heart of mature, roasted agave, it has a smoky, exotic flavor quite distinct from tequila. The production process honors traditional techniques dating back hundreds of years.
What are the different types of mezcal?
There are a few main types of mezcal, classified by the variety of agave used:
- Espadin - The most common variety, made from Agave angustifolia. Yields smooth, balanced flavors often described as herbaceous and fruity.
- Tobala - Made from Agave potatorum, a rare wild agave that grows in shady, high-altitude areas. Tobala is intensely floral with notes of citrus and spice.
- Tepeztate - Made from Agave marmorata, known for its complexity and bold flavors of black pepper, vanilla and ripe tropical fruit.
- Madrecuixe - Produced from Agave karwinskii, this variety yields very herbal and vegetal flavors balanced by distinct sweetness.
- Cuixe - Made from a wild Agave americana variety, cuixe has delicate fruit flavors and subtle smoke.
Blends combine the unique characteristics of different agave varieties for more complex mezcals. Ensambles use different agaves from the same region, while Mezclas combine agaves from different states.
How is mezcal made?
Production starts by harvesting 8-12 year old agave plants at peak maturity. The spiky leaves are trimmed off to access the piña, the round, pineapple-looking heart of the plant. Piñas weigh 25-150 lbs and are roasted in earthen pits topped with hot rocks. This caramelizes sugars and converts starches to fermentable form.
Roasted piñas are mashed and pulped to extract the aguamiel (honey water). The pulp ferments naturally in open-air tanks for 4-6 days, converting sugars to alcohol. Some mezcaleros add a starter culture to control fermentation.
After fermentation, the wash is distilled twice in small, copper alembic or clay pot stills. The design and material impact the spirit’s character. It must be distilled to under 55% ABV.
The ‘foreshots’ are discarded while the ‘heart’ becomes mezcal. The distiller skillfully separates the cuts based on experience. Some water is added to bring it to drinking proof of 40-50% ABV.
The clear, unaged mezcal is bottled directly or matured in glass or oak for smoother flavors. Many higher-end mezcals spend 1-12 months in wood. Before bottling, it may be lightly charcoal filtered to smooth the texture.
How should I drink mezcal?
Mezcal is generally not aged as long as other spirits, making it very mixable for cocktails. That said, high quality mezcal deserves to be sipped neat, ideally alongside an orange slice or coffee bean to cleanse the palate between sips. The aromas and flavors come through beautifully when sipped at room temperature.
While it shines on its own, it adds exciting depth, smoke, and fruitiness to cocktails. It works wonders in place of a smoky Scotch or bourbon. Herbal mezcals like Madrecuixe add complexity to gin cocktails. Fruity varieties like Tobala substitute nicely for tequila in margaritas and other drinks.
How does mezcal taste, smell, and look?
On the nose, it shows a lovely interplay between earthy smoke and bright agave sweetness. Hints of tropical and stone fruit frequently emerge. Take a sip and let the complex layers unfold across the palate - smoke, then spice, then sweetness. The best mezcals finish long and smooth. Their flavor profiles runs the gamut from light and fruity Espadins to rich, intense Tepeztates.
How do I mix mezcal into amazing cocktails?
Take a look at some of our wonderful mezcal cocktail recipes.
Mezcal’s smoky flavor profile makes it a fantastic spirit for creative cocktails. Here are some tips for using it effectively:
- Use it in place of gin or whiskey in classic cocktails like negronis or old fashioneds. Its boldness stands up to the other ingredients.
- For margaritas, sub it for tequila. The smoke adds wonderful complexity to the tart citrus and sweetener.
- Add a splash of smoky mezcal to a Moscow mule or other vodka drink. A little goes a long way in adding depth.
- Pair sweeter ones like Tobala with bright citrus flavors - think grapefruit, lime, blood orange. Let the fruit highlight the agave.
- Use a float of it atop an aged tequila drink for a flavorful, eye-catching presentation.
- Rim the glass with chili-lime salt to accentuate its natural notes of spice and herb.
- Embrace it in spirit-forward cocktails with just a few clean ingredients to let its personality shine.
What is the history of mezcal?
Mezcal has been made in Mexico for over 400 years, yet only recently gained international recognition. Indigenous people in pre-Hispanic Mexico produced a primitive form called pulque, fermenting the sweet aguamiel into a mildly alcoholic drink.
When the Spanish introduced distillation in the 1500s, mezcal quickly developed as a more potent, durable liquor. Agave’s availability and high sugar content made it an efficient base for spirits. Its production spread throughout Mexico.
In tequila’s rise to prominence since the 1970s, mezcal was overshadowed. But within Mexico, mezcal persisted as a traditional drink – an everyday liquor for working people. Strict regulation protects its production as an artisanal craft.
Today mezcal is celebrated as a complex spirit that expresses the diversity of Mexico’s agave species and microclimates. Connoisseurs extol the range of flavors from small-batch mezcals using wild agave and ancestral production techniques.
In remote Oaxacan pueblos, mezcal culture remains integral to community life. Villagers rely on mezcal production for subsistence and come together during milestone agave roasts. Traditional mezcaleros take pride in carrying on generations of technique and custom.
While mezcal faces the challenge of industrialization, most production remains small-scale, staying true to its rich cultural identity. As mezcal gains global fans, producers balance increased demand with their commitment to preserving mezcal’s heritage.
Why shop Curiada's selection of mezcal?
Curiada hand-selects an exciting array of small-batch, traditionally crafted mezcals that showcase the spirit's incredible range and possibilities. We feature mezcals from artisanal producers using both common and rare wild agave varieties to provide a spectrum of flavors and experiences.
We work with partners across the US to make these bottles available to you in 1-7 days from click to delivery. Get them alongside other cocktailing must-haves to build your home bar, explore your passion, and celebrate all that mezcal has to offer!
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