The 12 best mezcal brands you need to try, according to experts


Summary List Placement

Tequila and mezcal. What’s the difference? Quite a bit. Both tequila and mezcal do come from the agave plant, and both are indigenous liquors to Mexico. But the comparison stops there.

To be fair, all tequilas technically are part of the mezcal family. Mezcal is a liquor that is produced from the agave plant, and there are 30 different types of agave from which the beverage can be made. Tequila, however, is only the product of a specific type of agave: Blue Agave. To be considered tequila, the liquor has to be produced in one of five designated states in Mexico, whereas mezcal is produced in nine different states, with the largest production in Oaxaca.

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The taste of mezcal is also completely different than tequila.

The one thing mezcal newcomers can agree on is that mezcal tastes smokey, which is either what turns them on or off to the beverage. But as you get deeper into the wide, complex word of mezcal, it becomes apparent that there is so much to the flavor than just “smoke.”

“The number one thing that I explain to patrons asking about mezcal is to stop looking for a smoke bomb,” Amanda Swanson, bar manager at Fine & Rare restaurant told Business Insider. “The best mezcals in the world truly aren’t that smokey.”

Compared to tequila, she added, mezcal will always be smokier because of the way the agave is cooked. Mezcal is traditionally cooked inside pits in the ground that are lined with lava rocks, wood, and charcoal. It is then distilled in clay. 

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“I liken it to the comparison of cooking food in a pressure cooker — tequila — versus a barbecue — mezcal. A beautiful mezcal will have a burst of flavors ranging anywhere from earthy or vegetal to tropical fruit and agricole-like cheese funk.”

And you should definitely sip this neat.

When it comes time to taste mezcal, most experts agree that the best way to really get to know the beverage is to sip it neat. 

“My personal recommendation is to drink each mezcal on its own, no nice, no mixers,” mezcal expert Ignacio “Nacho” Jimenez said. “Now most mezcal tend to have a higher ABV than your typical spirit, so you will need to start tasting by sipping a little bit of mezcal. We say you kiss the mezcal first. That way you get your palate used to the higher ABV, and then you can begin sipping it.”

Jimenez has nearly 20 years of hospitality experience and is one of the country’s most established bartenders. He is originally from Mexico and today leads the bar program at Ghost Donkey, an agave spirits bar. The bar was named Imbibe magazine’s cocktail bar of the year for 2020.

Alvin Starkman is another mezcal expert. In fact, the majority of his life is dedicated to mezcal. He teaches visitors …read more

Source:: Business Insider


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