May 26, 2011
Tequila vs. Mezcal
One of the biggest misconceptions that I encounter when I talk to my customers about tequila is the question about the worm in the bottle. Today I would like to clarify the worm myth.
It is quit simple; tequila never has a worm in the bottle. The spirit that sometimes has the worm in the bottle is called mezcal.
Tequila and mezcal are related but differ in many ways. Mezcal has been around since the 16th century. Tequila is simply the son of this mother spirit. Tequila is a type of mezcal but has acquired the name of its town, Tequila to distinguish itself from mezcals that are produced in the Mexican states of Oaxaca, San Luis Potosí, Durango, and most recently some parts of Guanajuato.
To be called tequila, the agaves used for tequila production can only come from the entire state of Jalisco and selected counties of the states of Guanajuato, Michoacán, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas. Tequila can only be distilled from only one variety of agave, the Agave Tequilana Weber Azul.
Though tequila is generally known to be a type of mezcal, rules and regulations have been implemented to distinguish between these two spirits from Mexico. Since tequila goes through a steam cooking process, in masonry or stainless steel autoclaves (steam pressure cookers) the end product conserves a steamed agave flavor that is most notable in blanco (silver) tequilas. You will never see a bottle of tequila that has the name mezcal on the bottle or vice versa.
Mezcal can be made from various types of agaves (thirty as of today) such as: Espadin, Tóbala (wild agave), Cierego and Mexicano, just to mention a few. One of the most notable features about mezcal is its production. The traditional method of roasting the agave in underground wood-fired pits, stone milling, and distilling in small batches using small copper pot stills helps mezcal aquire its smokiness, unique aromas and flavors. It is important to note that some mezcals today are acquiring more state of the art production methods but still keep some traditional touches to distinguish among other agave-based spirits.
Tequila is what I call, an evolution of mezcal. There is an old saying that goes: “ Para todo mal, mezcal. y para todo mal también !” (Mezcal for the good times, Mezcal for the bad time as well)