Legend says that lightning struck a maguey, opening and cooking its center. The natives perceived the pungent aroma of the emanating nectar and fearfully drank the liquid. A mystic drink was emerged, considered a gift from the gods.
Today, Mezcal is still made from the heart of the maguey plant, called the “piña”, much the same way it was 200 years ago, in most places. It is made of several native types of maguey – also known as agave – of which there are at least thirty.
Although it is produced in a number of other states, the best known Mezcal come from the state of Oaxaca. There, producers with strong commitment and devotion cook the piña in stone ovens with oak or mesquite (a native Mexican tree) wood. Piñas are chopped and macerated in artisanal mills with a large circular stone pulled by a horse. The resulting mosto or juice is placed in wooden vats where it naturally ferments for four or five days. A double distillation process follows to obtain a natural, homogeneous and high quality alcohol.
Behind every Mezcal there is a master distiller – maestro mezcalillero –, because they are limited, unique and personalized productions. One way to assess the quality of the Mezcal is to observe the pearl or white bubbles that are generated when serving the distillate in a small bowl called a jícara or carrizo. Another quality test is rubbing Mezcal between the hands until it dries to perceive the characteristic aroma of the agave. These tests indicate the alcoholic content, the types of maguey used and the process that the Mezcal went through.
Generation after generation, this industry has become a tradition. The Mezcal blanco is obtained directly after the destination process. The Mezcal reposadois left up to one year in encino barrels. The Mezcal anejo matures over a year in oak barrels. In Mexico, Mezcal is generally consumed straight and has a strong smoky flavor.
The famous “worm” that is found in some bottles of Mezcal is the larva that live on the agave plant. The worm is included because it changes the taste of the Mezcal slightly. Don’t miss the opportunity to try Mezcal, a famous ambassador of Mexico and the state of Oaxaca, land of customs and ancestral traditions.
Article by Con Acento Latino. They strive for the knowledge of the Spanish language and Latin culture among executives and students throughout the world. For the comfort of the students, the classes are tailor-made and held in their offices or homes.
Text adapted and translated from:
Mezcal de Oaxaca, Video Promocional 2012
To learn more about this drink, visit any of the mezcalerías in Mexico City:
10 mezcalerías que no te debes perder. Las mejores mezcalerías
Read the article “Muchos mezcales” from Gatopardo magazine:
And enjoy the song Mezcalito by Lila Downs: