A Jicara is a drinking bowl made from the fruit of the gourd tree. Pumpkin bowls are the traditional drinking vessel for the spirit in the homeland of agave schnapps. High-quality bowls are handcrafted and enchant with their ornate decoration.
On Dia de los Muertos, the day of the dead, they are a pretty decorative element on the altar. The vessels are not only visually, but also in terms of taste for craftsmanship from Mexico. They play an important role in the quality control of the agave schnapps in the distilleries and ensure maximum aromatic richness when tasting it.
The sacred tree of the Mayans
The name of the drinking bowl refers directly to its botanical origin. The calabash tree is an imposing plant with twisted gray branches that can grow up to 14 meters tall in the wild. It grows in tropical areas and has important cultural significance, especially in Mexico, but also in Central and South America.
Many centuries ago, the Mayas worshiped it as a sacred tree. With its numerous healing properties for people and nature, it is no wonder that the Jícara has enjoyed great popularity over its long life of 100 to 200 years.
A fruit with many uses
The tree is characterized by its round, woody, light, smooth and extremely robust fruit, which grows directly from the branches. Long before Columbus came to America, the natives had already discovered their many uses. It was used in handicrafts, medicine, animal feed, music and toys.
In medicine, the fruit is valued for its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and is used to heal various respiratory diseases. Modern medicine is even considering the fruit's peel as a natural option for cranial implants.
A tree for all occasions
But not only the fruit is used nowadays. A rich edible oil is extracted from the flower seeds, which emerge when the flower opens at dusk. The seeds can also be roasted and made into a nutritious chocolate with a little cinnamon. Another area of application for the calabash tree is agriculture.
The robust plant strengthens the soil and, as cow feed, ensures creamy and tasty milk. Naturopathy swears by the tree as a natural remedy for the treatment of numerous diseases. Even the bark has now become the focus of scientists. According to studies, it can be used to produce ethanol, which is non-toxic to various living organisms. It may be used to produce better charcoal in the future.
There's a worm in there - isn't it?
A liquor bottle with worm in it? No need to worry It's the mezcal, lesser known in Europe, which appears to have found its way into this well-stocked bar.Looking at the proportion of agave production that goes into mezcalproduction, it's clear that it's is a real rarity: compared to the production of tequila, only about 1.5% of the annual volume of agaves was used for me-zcal in Mexico in 2020.
The myth surrounding the insect at the bottom of the bottle also deserves an explanation.It is a caterpillar and does not represent a quality feature, but solely a marketing gimmick from the 1950s. What is certain, however, is that neither caterpillar nor worm would get lost in a tequila bottle.
Tequila belongs to the family of agave schnapps and designates a specific variety that is made exclusively from the blue Weber agave, the Agave Azul In contrast to tequila, its big brother may consist of more than 30 agave species, with the majority of those traded Only about 12 types of spirits are used
Tequila production may only take place in certain regions of Mexico. The manufacturing process is also very different from mezcal production. For tequila, the agaves are treated in ovens under steam and not roasted underground as in mezcal.
We have compiled even more surprising facts about the agave and its distillates for you here: https://pacific-lime.com/blogs/mezcal/10-facts-mezcal
An ode to the agave
mezcal is a piece of Mexico, a piece of history and a piece of quality of life. This lavish description impressively conveys the importance of liquor in Mexican culture. In its heart beats the agave, or rather, one of many innumerable agaves - there are around 200 species of agave worldwide. This variety of varieties makes it a pleasure with an incredible variety of tastes, which reflects the respective microclimate of the agave in its aroma.
It is the origin of all agave spirits. It is not without reason that its production is a traditional and fascinating art of distilling spirits. Without the use of chemical or technical aids, the art of production lies in the experience of the trained mezcaleros, who pass on their secrets for generations. Fine basic ingredients form the basis for excellent taste alongside the expertise and feeling of the master distiller.
Espadín accounts for around 85% of all certified agave schnapps. It is valued by its followers for its uncomplicated enjoyment, by mezcaleros for its bounty. In stark contrast is the Jabalí, a rarity obtained from a wild agave. Even for the best mezcaleros, distilling agave brandy from this variety is a real challenge. However, if the efforts are successful, connoisseurs will be enchanted by their mystical taste.
The schnapps is produced very traditionally in Oaxaca. Palenque calls itself a mezcal distillery For the production, the heart of the agave, the piña, is harvested just before flowering. Without interference with nature, a flower stalk would grow up to twelve meters from the center, the plant would flower and then die .
After harvesting, the hearts are roughly chopped up and roasted in an earth oven. The roasting process takes several days during which the agave's carbohydrates are converted into sugars for fermentation. Then the caramelized agave pieces are ground. The subsequent fermentation process in the open air converts the sugar in the mash into alcohol in a few weeks.
For the subsequent distillation, stills made of copper (alambique) are used, but sometimes also those made of ceramic (ollas) or parts of plants (reeds, agave shoots, bamboo, wood ) The first filling must be completely burned off before the still can be refilled. The most common are the copper stills with stills (olla, cucúrbita, retorta), helmet (cabezote, montera, capitel), spirit tube (turbante, pasa-vapores) and serpentine coolers in water baths (serpentín, culebra). In other states it is common to only distil the liquid from the mash, but in Oaxaca the mash is distilled with the agave fibers included.
The schnapps is distilled twice. The first distillation produces the 20 to 30 percent coarse spirit (ordinario). This is distilled in the second distillation to 45 to 55 percent fine brandy (rectificación). In rare cases, the liquor even goes through more distillation processes, such as with Jabalí. This wild agave species requires three to four distillations due to its lower sugar content.
The mezcalero pulls out its pumpkin shell for quality control. He uses it to catch the first drops of the main flow and examines the formation of bubbles. In it he reads, among other things, the alcohol content. The bubbles should form a circle, preferably in a ring, around the edge of the bowl and cover the surface. The scent and consistency also provide information about the distillate.
High-quality spirits are also produced by the mezcaleros from Noble Coyote: https ://pacific-lime.com/collections/mezcal.