Mezcal vs. Tequila - das sind die Unterschiede - Pacific & Lime

Mezcal vs. Tequila - these are the differences

Most bar visitors are certainly familiar with the agave schnapps tequila. Who doesn't remember the little ritual of tequila shot , lemon and salt? You've probably also enjoyed the popular Tequila Sunrise cocktail at a hotel bar. However, what still seems to be a new product for many in this country is mezcal . Some share their experiences from their last vacation in Mexico, others got to know this agave distillate in alternative bars. At least they know what the difference is between tequila and mezcal . This article would like to take you on an exciting journey into the world of Mexican liquor distillery.

Mezcal vs. Tequila – what is the difference between Mezcal and Tequila?

“Mezcal vs. Tequila” is actually the wrong question. That's a bit like asking a wine connoisseur whether red wine is better than Chianti. Tequila is a specific type of mezcal .

Mezcal is the more original form of tequila and can be distilled from up to fifty different types of agave. In the rural areas of some Mexican states, agave liquor is still sold in large plastic canisters - often from small distilleries of more or less private origin. This is where the incredible variety comes from, which always brings surprising and stunning taste experiences for a Mezcal newcomer. The word mezcal comes from Aztec and is made up of “ixcalli” for cooked and “metl” for agave. As exotic as the word mezcal may seem, it simply means cooked agave!

Tequila, on the other hand, is only made from Blue Weber agaves. These were originally common in the area surrounding the city of Tequila and were mainly used as food. Because the sweet heart was considered particularly tasty and, for a long time, a real delicacy. For a long time, both the use and consumption of Blue Weber agave were limited to the Tequila region. It wasn't until the twentieth century that the decisive impulse that helped tequila gain its status as the national drink of the Mexicans.

Mezcal and tequila difference in agave harvest

Agaves that are harvested for making mezcal mostly come from the state of Oaxaca. It is harvested as soon as an agave is ripe. In order to avoid the loss of valuable inulin, the shoots of flower stems are separated. When harvesting, the leaves are removed so that the heart can be cut off just above the ground. Its shape is similar to that of a pineapple, which is why it is also called a piña.

The harvest is done by hand, usually with the help of machetes or special knives, the coas. Smaller distilleries rely on the expert eye of their fire master, who personally selects the agaves. For this purpose, large distilleries employ specially trained skilled workers, the jimadores, who are paid per kilogram of agave harvested. This has a significant impact on the later taste of the mezcal because unripe plant components release bitter substances during cooking.

For the production of tequila, the Blue Weber agaves are grown in monocultures, in contrast to the wild Mezcal agaves. This means that these plants have very little genetic diversity and are therefore particularly susceptible to pest attacks. In addition, unusual cold snaps repeatedly caused major agave deaths, which resulted in a real shortage of agaves. Many challenges are now being met through targeted breeding programs. However, it remains to be seen whether the number of Blue Weber agaves can keep up with the increased consumption of tequila, especially in Asia.

Mezcal vs. Tequila – how does production differ?

    Mezcal and tequila - the difference in baking

      Mezcal is made by baking the agave hearts in earthen pits. The type of cooking determines the taste. Especially with traditionally produced mezcal, baking in the ground contributes to the characteristic smoky aroma. The earth pits differ from distillery to distillery. Depending on the shape and size, different numbers of agaves can be baked at the same time. If the pits become less hot overall, aromas from earth and firewood can penetrate better into the agave hearts and round off and refine the taste experience. The baking process is only complete when the agave hearts are completely caramelized.

      Traditionally, the agave hearts used for tequila production were also baked in earthen pits. In the last century, however, brick kilns became increasingly popular. The hearts are now cooked in so-called autoclaves. These work like a pressure cooker and save manufacturers enormous time, as cooking in an autoclave only takes half as long as in a traditional hole in the ground. An even more efficient cooking method is increasingly being used in tequila production: hydrolysis in the diffuser. The lengthy cooking process is no longer necessary because the agave hearts are shredded and the sugar is extracted directly using steam and chemicals.

        Mezcal or tequila difference in fermentation

            During mezcal production, fermentation takes place in the open air using wild yeasts from the respective environment. Depending on the temperature and weather, the duration of fermentation can vary between a few days and several weeks. Furthermore, factors such as humidity and geographical location play a role in the fermentation time. Tequila production, on the other hand, relies on cultured yeasts and uses the addition of chemicals, which limits the process to a few hours.

              Distillation: The subtle difference between mezcal and tequila

                To be eligible for export, the mezcal is distilled twice. This is done in smaller batches using classic copper stills in the traditional pot still process. The separation of pre- and post-run determines the aroma. An experienced mezcalero does this solely using the senses of smell and taste and does not use any other tools to determine the ideal time.

                Even if tequila is distilled industrially using the column distillation process, double distillation is required. However, detection is made more difficult by the column burning process, as this process is continuous. This is why the pot still process is used in many cases, in which breaks are taken between the individual steps. Since tequila is produced in large quantities, this can only be done using industrial processes and chemical additives that speed up the respective work steps.

                Maturity levels – Mezcal vs. Tequila

                Both mezcal and tequila are available in different levels of maturity. From “Blanco” or “Joven” to “Reposado”, the names indicate different levels of maturity between sixty days and a year.

                In both cases, the longest type of ripening is called Añejo. Since 2006, however, a tequila called Extra Añejo has also been on the market. Unlike traditional Añejo tequila, this must mature in 200 liter barrels for at least three years before being sold.

                Basically, the maturation of mezcal is a phenomenon that is not considered traditional by all experts. In contrast, there is the maturation process of tequila, which has been an integral part of tequila production since the middle of the nineteenth century at the latest.

                Tequila and mezcal with a worm – what it’s all about

                The worm is a phenomenon that has not yet been fully understood. The fact is that it is often found in mezcal varieties that are of lower quality. Furthermore, it is not a worm at all, but rather the larvae of butterflies or moths that attack the agaves as pests. Some legends claim the worm is a marketing gimmick to attract American tourists. Others attribute consciousness-expanding properties to the small insects. It is certain that mezcal from Oaxaca is traditionally enjoyed with “Sal de gusano”: a salt mixture made from chili peppers and powdered larvae. This does not yet explain the enjoyment of tequila or mezcal with a worm. However, it is up to your imagination which of the legends makes sense to you the most...!

                If we have now made you curious about our agave schnapps, take a look around our pages. Our mezcal and tequila range has a wide range available for you – see for yourself!

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