Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Mezcal 101 for drinkers

You will see that everything related to mezcal, will be related to the heart. Keep reading and you will know what I mean. I lived in Chicago for many, many years. With such a big Mexican population, I had to learn a thing or two about  tequila and guess what else?... mezcal. The following part I had to learn by heart, otherwise my Mexican employees, friends, and vendors will eat my heart out (You see, I told you).

How to drink Mezcal
  • Traditionally is served in a shot glass. Straight. Neat.
  • At bars, might be served with salt, lime wedges or orange halves.
  • Hardcore traditionalist might throw a pinch of ground larvae salt with chili over a lime wedge, chew the wedge, slam the mezcal shot, and drink it straight. Viva Mexico!.

So learn this "Mezcal is a distilled liquor from the agave plants". Since tequila is made of Blue Agave, Tequila is too a kind of mezcal. Translation: "All Tequilas are mezcals, only blue agave mezcals are tequilas. "

To produce mezcal a variety of agave is used. This variety is known as "maguey", and this plant´s heart is used to distill this alcoholic beverage. Since the "piñas" (the hearts) are oven-baked or roasted, mezcal has a smoky flavor to it.

If you are like me, of curious nature and willing to develop taste for unusual things (what kind of things?,well you don´t really need to know), this drink might catch your attention.

Fun Facts
  • It takes at least seven years for the plant to mature.
  • Maguey is the variety of agave used for mezcal.
  • “Manso” is best maguey to produce it.
  • Other varieties are “espadín, arroquense and tobalá. 
  • The "piñas" are cooked for about three days
  • Most are aged from one month to four years
  • Mezcal can reach an alcohol content of 55%
  • Most mezcals are a little stronger than tequilas.
  • Mezcal is distilled mostly once, and great ones twice.
  • Not all bottles of mezcal contain a worm.
  • White mezcal is clear and hardly aged.
  • Dorado (golden) is not aged. A coloring agent is added. 
  • Reposado (aged) is placed in wood barrels from two to nine months. 
  • Añejo is aged in barrels for a minimum of twelve months
  • If the añejo is of 100% agave, it is usually aged for about four years.
  • Tequila has NO WORMS.
  • Good Mezcal has NO WORMS.
  • Gimmicky brands DO HAVE WORMS

I had made previously a blind tasting of different mezcal brands somewhere in the South Side of Chicago, where the "Colonia Oaxaqueña" resides. I took a notepad, pencils, camera and carried with me, two good Mexican buddies of mine. Very friendly people. The last thing I remember is a short demonstration of how to salt, chew, slam and dunk. Thanks god to note taking. Here I am throwing a short list of the ones I like.

Well-know brands
  • Del Maguey
  • Gusano Rojo
  • San Luis del Rio
  • Santo Domingo Albarradas
  • Hacienda de Chihuahua 
  • Monte Alban
  • Zacatecano 
  • Embajador 
  • Scorpion 
  • Talapa
  • Tobala
  • Pechuga