What Exactly is Mezcal?

By Isabella Sibler

The rise in mezcal's popularity over the years is undeniable and has made its way on to most cocktail menus. Mezcal is a Mexican distilled liquor made from the agave plant. Almost ninety percent of mezcal is produced in Oaxaca, one of the southernmost regions in Mexico resting on a large coastline along the Pacific Ocean.

The plant has a life cycle of five to 30 years before they are ready to harvest, which is why mezcal is so unique and expensive compared to other liquors. Farmers have to spend significantly more time and resources caring for the agave.

One may be surprised to learn that tequila is actually a kind of mezcal and not the other way around. Tequila and mezcal are made from different varieties of the agave plant. Tequila can only be made from blue agave, but mezcal can be made from over 30 different types of the agave plant. Yet, it is made primarily from espadin agave. The largest distinction between mezcal and tequila is the flavor profile. Mezcal has a unique smoky flavor, unlike tequila, which starts during the cooking process.

The word "mezcal" translates to "oven-cooked agave" and most of the cultivation of mezcal still comes from the state of Oaxaca, where it originated. Everything is done by hand. The workers will harvest the agave plant. Then, they will remove the pina and bury it underground in a pit with hot rocks. It will cool there for three days, and once it is cooked, it is then mashed using a stone wheel grinder turned by a horse. The producers take pride in the traditional process and have not strayed away from the way that their ancestors used to do it.

Typically, mezcal is served straight and sipped slowly in order to appreciate the smooth and smoky flavor. But, as mezcal rises in popularity around the world, it has become a substitute for the usual liquor in popular cocktails, like a Oaxaca old-fashioned, mezcalritas, and the mezcal mule.

The next time you visit Verde, make sure to try our blood orange mezcalrita and give mezcal a try for yourself! Our mezcalrita is a blend of banhez mezcal, grove street orange liquor, lime, and blood orange. Try our spin on a classic cocktail!