Mezcal, often confused with Tequila, is a distillate extracted from agave and produced by the Aztecs. Let’s find out what it is and what its origins are.
Mezcal is an ancient and mystical drink originally from Mexico, already produced by the Aztecs and which is extracted from the agave plant. Although it shares its origin with Tequila, Mezcal is a completely different distillate, starting with the smoky aroma that distinguishes it. The Mezcal also owes its name to the deity Mayalt , represented as an agave woman able to feed her followers with Mezcal. So let’s find out what are the origins of this drink of the gods and what are its distinctive features.
Mezcal: characteristics and curiosities
Mezcal is therefore a derivative of agave, however, unlike Tequila which is extracted from blue agave or tequilana, this product originates from other types of plants. In fact, it is necessary to know that there are over 200 varieties of agave and only 40 or 50 types are used to distill Mezcal. There are also examples of Mezcal that combine different agave juices, in order to give more particular aromas and tastes.
Another key feature is that Tequila is a Mezcal and not vice versa. Often there is a tendency to get confused on this subject, so it is better to clarify. First of all, we can say that the origin of these products is different, in fact tequila is produced mainly in the Jalisco area, while Mezcal is cultivated and distilled in specific regions of Mexico, such as Oaxaca and Durango .
We can then say that Mezcal can only be distilled in purity, while Tequila can also be added with sugar . Finally, the pronunciation of Mezcal also has its characteristics, so that z does not exist and a sound closer to a caressed s should be used.
Mezacal: flavors and aromas
As we have anticipated, Mezcal is the emblematic drink of Mexico, very linked to tradition and culture. Among the characteristic features of Mezcal we can certainly find the flavor and taste. In fact, producers follow a strict series of steps to obtain the final product, which is normally crystalline and unflavored.
But then what is its particular flavor due to? Certainly not to the peat which, if for whiskey it is a virtue, for Mezcal it is almost a defect, since the Mexican drink must preserve its natural scents. In general, the aromas are of fruit and flowers and derive from two fundamental aspects, namely the type of plant, the soil where it is grown and the extraction process. In fact, using a different water, or an extra week of fermentation, can also greatly change the taste of the final product.
Mezcal: cooking, fermentation and distillation
The process underlying the distillation of Mezcal is extremely complex and takes place in several stages. In particular, after having collected the agave plants, this must be stripped of the leaves until it reaches the pine cone in the center. It is from this part of the agave that the Mezcal is extracted, but first these pine cones are cut into wedges and buried inside palenques. These are particular conical ovens, which are turned on at least one day before the agave harvest.
The preparation is then covered with leaves and left to rest for 2 or 3 days, but the time can vary according to the wishes of those who are distilling. Finally the preparation will be left to rest for a week. Right at this moment the magic happens, that is when the compound extracted from the oven begins to ferment spontaneously. Then the chopped pine cones are collected and minced in a mill, preferably operated by donkeys or horses.
The pulp of the first pressing is then mixed with water until it reaches a sweet liquid, which is poured into a wooden barrel and left to ferment further, even for a month. Now that the mixture has rested, we can move on to the actual distillation, which takes place in copper or ceramic stills. There are two distillations to be carried out, and the first also includes the fibrous residues of the compound.
The presence of the worm in the Mezcal
We all know that in every bottle of Mezcal there is a worm floating on the bottom. This habit derives from a legend that has the goddess Maytal as its protagonist. It seems that one day the goddess produced a worm from one of her many breasts and decided, after various adventures, to give it to a warrior she was in love with to make it immortal and live with him all eternity.
After the legend, however, the first to use the worm for advertising purposes in the 1950s, it was a producer after finding the pet floating in one of its barrels. The man, remembering the legend, began to produce Mezcal by advertising it with the worm, coming to indissolubly link the Mexican liqueur and the small insect. In reality, however, this practice does not increase the taste of Mezcal and does not change its organoleptic properties.
Cover photo source: https://pixabay.com/it/photos/mezcal-tequila-messico-bere-alcol-3647841/