Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Mezcal

The New York Times does a pretty nice piece on the new "it" spirit, Mezcal:
Of course, the most basic questions are: What is mezcal? And how does it differ from tequila?

Both are distillates from the fruit of agave plants. Tequila is a form of mezcal that by law can be produced only in several designated areas centered on the state of Jalisco in western Mexico. It is made from the blue agave, and while the law requires only that tequila be 51 percent agave, all good tequilas are 100 percent blue agave.

Mezcal comes from the vicinity of Oaxaca in southern Mexico. While mezcal can be made from any number of varieties of agave, the vast proportion uses the espadin agave. Oh, by the way, the legend that a bottle of mezcal always contains a worm is simply colorful marketing shtick.

Tequila is mostly produced in factories, but most if not all good mezcals are essentially handmade in small family operations. The agave for tequila is generally roasted in large ovens. For mezcal, the agave is usually roasted in palenques, or rock-lined pits, accounting for its characteristic smokiness.

I'm not a huge tequila fan... though good 100% agave tequila is pretty nice... so I don't know I really need to try its much more expensive cousin, but I guess it's something to keep an eye out for. These stuffed poblanos sound pretty good though.