While mezcal and tequila have many similarities, these agave-based Mexican spirits have several differences including their place of origin, production process and taste. Discover what differentiates mezcal vs. tequila in this short and informative article. You’ll be guaranteed to wow your friends and family with your drinks knowledge!
Mezcal can be produced in eight Mexican states, with the majority being produced in Oaxaca. In contrast, all the tequila that is drunk in the world – some 55 million litres per year – is produced in the area between the cities of Tequila and Guadalajara, an area covering a radius of only about 150 km. More precisely, tequila can only be produced in five Mexican states – the majority is produced in the state of Jalisco and the rest in some limited areas in the states of Guanajuato, Michoacán, Nayarit and Tamaulipas.
Type of Agave
Mezcal can be made using any type of agave, which includes espadin, tobala, tepeztate, arroqueno, and tobaziche. For the production of tequila, only agave tequilana, commonly called blue agave, is allowed.
While mezcal is made from 100% agave and is chemical-free, tequila can contain up to 49% sugars and other compounds.
Mezcal is made using traditional methods with underground ovens that are lined with lava rocks and filled with wood and charcoal. Here the agave pinas (agave hearts) are cooked before being extracted. This is followed by fermentation and distillation in oak barrels, clay pots, or small copper pot stills. In contrast, tequila is usually steamed in above-ground industrial ovens before being distilled two or three times in copper pots.
Mezcal tends to be more expensive than tequila because of its traditional, labour-intensive production methods. The scarcity of a lot of the wild agave plants used to make the spirit also increases the price. What’s more, mezcal is produced in small batches by more artisanal distilleries, further pushing its price up.
The taste of mezcal is generally stronger and more aromatic. Mezcal is often smoky and earthy with notes of bell pepper, leather, and chipotle. This is because the agave used to produce mezcal is often pit-roasted, whereas the agave used to produce tequila is usually steamed. Mezcal can also be floral, spicy and fruity. It all depends on the type of agave used and how it’s distilled. The taste of tequila is more neutral in comparison as blue agave results in a clean and crisp flavour.
It is absolutely impossible to find a bottle of tequila in circulation that contains a worm. The “gusano” is only found in mezcal. It is a worm that lives in the agave plant and is carefully collected by Mexican farmers, the jimadores. In Mexico, it is an honour to drink the glass with the worm as it’s said to give sexual vigour to whoever swallows it.
We hope you’ve enjoyed learning about the differences between mezcal and tequila. Now order yourself a bottle of each from Drinks&Co’s extensive selection and discover the differences for yourself!