I’ve been a fan of premium tequilas for a decade now but had never had mezcal before my trip to Puebla. Partially this was a function of my ignorance of this spirit, assuming as I did that it was the stuff of drunken cowpokes swigging down the worm.
What I learned was that mezcal, like tequila, is going through a renaissance. There’s never been a better time to sample small batch, handmade mezcals though you will likely have difficulty finding it outside of Mexico. Yet another reason to visit Puebla.
What, you may well ask, is the difference between mezcal and tequila. Simply put, the type of agave plant and the region in which it is distilled. Tequila is made from the blue agave in the state of Jalisco while Mezcal comes from several other agaves and is most often made in Oaxaca.
In other words, as it is often explained, tequila is a mezcal while mezcal is not tequila. I don’t think I am alone in believing that tequila is the smoother spirit, for mezcal has a bolder, smokier taste that doesn’t lend itself to cocktails such as a margarita.
I enjoyed the ritual we observed at two restaurants in Puebla when a small jigger of mezcal was brought to each place along with slices of orange or limes and salt. Personally I found the orange slice after a healthy sip of mezcal the perfect compliment.
Hats off to those individuals who can shoot the entire jigger, an experience much too intense for me. Mezcal packs a punch for another reason – it can be as much as fifty percent alcohol by volume.
At El Mural de los Poblanos, a traditional Puebla restaurant to which I would return in a heartbeat, mezcal holds a place of honor. There I found a cart filled with probably two-dozen different mezcals from which the mezcalier (think sommelier except for mezcal, not wine) would chose depending upon the
patron’s tastes. It was to this mezcalier I went to select a bottle of mezcal to bring back to the States. He selected a Los Siete Misterios that I have enjoyed tremendously.
As I drink my mezcal and remember Puebla, I think also of the old saying about this marvelous spirit: For everything bad, mezcal; for everything good as well.
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