A jicara is a drinking bowl made from the fruit of the calabash tree. In the homeland of agave schnapps, pumpkin bowls are the traditional drinking vessels for the spirit. High-quality bowls are handmade and enchant with their artistic decoration.
During Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, they are a nice decorative element on the altar. The vessels represent craftsmanship from Mexico not only visually, but also in terms of taste. They play an important role in checking the quality of the agave schnapps in the distilleries and ensure maximum aromatic richness when tasting it.
The sacred tree of the Mayas
The name of the drinking bowl refers directly to its botanical origin. The calabash tree is an impressive plant with twisted gray branches that can grow up to 14 meters high 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 it was revered as a sacred tree by the Mayans. With its numerous healing properties for humans and nature, it is no wonder that the jícara enjoys great popularity during its long, 100- to 200-year lifespan.
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 indigenous people had already discovered their many uses. It was used in handicrafts, medicine, as animal feed, for making music and as toys.
In medicine, the fruit is valued for its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and is used to cure various respiratory diseases. Modern medicine even considers the peel of the fruit as a natural option for cranial implants.
A tree for all occasions
But it's not just the fruit that is used today. A rich cooking oil is made from the flower seeds, which appear 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 use for the calabash tree is agriculture.
The robust plant strengthens the soil and provides creamy and tasty milk as cow feed. 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 obtain ethanol, which is non-toxic to various living organisms. It may be possible to use it to produce better charcoal in the future.
There's a worm in there - isn't there?
A liquor bottle with a worm in it? No need to worry. It's the lesser-known mezcal 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, you can see that it is a real rarity : compared to the production of tequila, only around 1.5% of the annual volume of agave was used for mezcal in Mexico in 2020 -zcal used.
The myth about the insect at the bottom of the bottle also deserves an explanation. It is a caterpillar and does not represent a quality feature, but rather a marketing gimmick from the 1950s. What is certain, however, is that neither caterpillar nor worm would get into a tequila bottle.
Tequila belongs to the agave family and refers to a specific variety made exclusively from the blue Weber agave, Agave Azul . In contrast to tequila, its big brother can consist of more than 30 types of agave, although only around 12 types are used for the majority of spirits sold.
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 and not roasted underground like with mezcal.
We have put together even more surprising facts about agave and its distillates for you here: https://pacific-lime.com/blogs/mezcal/10-fakten-mezcal
An ode to 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. At its heart beats the agave, or rather, one of the many countless agaves - there are around 200 species of agaves 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 over generations. Fine basic ingredients, along with the expert knowledge and feeling of the master distiller, form the basis for excellent taste.
Espadín accounts for around 85% of all certified agave spirits. It is valued by its fans for its uncomplicated enjoyment and by mezcaleros for its high-yielding harvest. In stark contrast is the Jabalí, a rarity that is obtained from a wild agave. Even for the best mezcaleros, distilling agave spirits from this variety is a real challenge. However, if the efforts are successful, connoisseurs will be enchanted by their mystical taste.
The liquor is traditionally made in Oaxaca. Palenque calls itself a mezcal distillery . For production, the heart of the agave, the piña , is harvested shortly before it flowers. Without interference with nature, a flower stalk would grow up to twelve meters from the center, the plant would bloom and then die.
After harvesting, the hearts are roughly chopped and roasted in an earth oven. The roasting process takes several days, during which the agave's carbohydrates are converted into sugars for fermentation. The caramelized agave pieces are then ground. The subsequent fermentation process in the fresh air converts the sugar in the mash into alcohol in just a few weeks.
For the subsequent distillation, stills made of copper ( alambique ) are used, but sometimes those made of ceramic ( ollas ) or plant parts (reed, agave shoots, bamboo, wood). The first filling must be burned off completely before the still can be refilled. The most commonly used are the copper stills with a still ( olla, cucúrbita, retorta ), helmet ( cabezote, montera, capitel ), spirit tube ( turbante, pasa-vapores ) and coil cooler in a water bath ( serpentín, culebra ). In other states it is common practice to distill only the liquid from the mash, but in Oaxaca the mash is distilled along with the agave fibers.
The schnapps is distilled twice. During the first distillation, the 20 to 30 percent rim ( ordinario ) is created. During the second distillation, this is distilled to 45 to 55 percent fine spirit ( rectificación ). In rare cases, the liquor even goes through more distilling processes, such as with Jabalí. This wild type of agave requires three to four distillations due to its lower sugar content.
For quality control, the mezcalero pulls out his pumpkin peel . He catches the first drops of the main stream and checks whether they form bubbles. Among other things, he reads the alcohol content. The bubbles should form a circle and, if possible, form a ring around the edge of the bowl and cover the surface. The scent and consistency also provide information about the distillate.
Noble Coyote's Mezcaleros also produce high-quality spirits: https://pacific-lime.com/collections/mezcal