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 handmade and enchant with their artistic 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 aroma during the tasting.
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.
Already many centuries ago it was revered as a sacred tree by the Mayas. With its numerous healing properties for people and nature, it is no wonder that the Jícara has enjoyed great popularity throughout 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 a worm in it? Nothing to worry about. It's the mezcal, less well-known in Europe, that seems to have found its way into this well-stocked bar. If you look at the proportion of agave production that is used for mezcal production, it becomes clear that this is a real rarity: compared to the production of tequila, only around 1.5% of the annual volume of agave in Mexico in 2020 was used for me -zcal used.
The myth of the insect at the bottom of the bottle also deserves an explanation. It is a caterpillar and does not represent a quality feature, but purely 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 agave liquor family and refers to a specific variety made exclusively from the blue Weber agave, Agave Azul . In contrast to tequila, its big brother may consist of more than 30 types of agave, with only about 12 types being used for the majority of spirits traded.
Tequila production is only allowed in certain regions of Mexico. The manufacturing process is also very different from mezcal production. For tequila, the agaves are steamed in ovens, rather than being roasted underground like mezcal.
We have compiled even more surprising facts about the agave and its distillates for you here: https://pacific-lime.com/blogs/mezcal/10-fakten-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 in addition to the specialist knowledge and feeling of the master distiller.
Espadín accounts for around 85% of all certified agave spirits. 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 traditionally made in Oaxaca. Palenque calls itself a mezcal distillery . For the production, the heart of the agave, the piña , is harvested just before flowering. Without interfering with nature, a flower stalk would grow up to forty feet from the center, the plant would bloom and then die.
After harvesting, the hearts are roughly crushed 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 batch must be burned off completely before the still can be refilled. The copper stills with stills ( olla, cucúrbita, retorta ), helmet ( cabezote, montera, capitel ), spirit tube ( turbante, pasa-vapores ) and snake cooler in the water bath ( serpentín, culebra ) are used most frequently. 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 rough 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.
For quality control, the mezcalero pulls out its pumpkin skin . 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.
The mezcaleros from Noble Coyote also produce high-quality spirits: https://pacific-lime.com/collections/mezcal