“Para todo mal, Mezcal. Y para todo bien, tambien” – For everything bad Mezcal. And for everything good also.
Im sure, like most, when thinking of Mexico you think immediately of Tequila. However, increasingly, it’s trendy sister Mezcal is what is on people’s lips. And if you’re visiting Oaxaca, the home of Mezcal, its an absolute must try!
Mezcal starts, and arguably ends, with Agave. Agave, which comes from the Greek meaning of ‘noble’ is symbolic to Mexico and is a huge part of its culture, which can also be said of Mezcal itself within Southern Mexico. Mezcal serves as social glue, binding communities together and its consumption has many ritualistic purposes. Moreover, its scope within international markets and beyond the borders of Oaxaca, and also Mexico, is beginning to grow and grow.
Legally wise, Mezcal can only be named as such if it is made from 100% Agave and within certified Southern states, Oaxaca being its main producer. Unlike Tequila, which is made solely from ‘Blue’ Agave , Mezcal can be made from over 22 varieties of Agave, either cultivated or wild. When it comes to the production of Mezcal, as Mezcaleros have been doing this since the 16th Century and the traditional craft techniques are passed from generation to generation, its pretty much as honed as it can get.
From Palenque to Palenque (Mezcal production house) the processes of Mezcal’s production comes largely down to 4 stages:
1) Harvest and Roast The harvest of the Agave and the extraction of the ‘piña’, or the heart of the plant, by slicing away its leaves and roots. These piñas are then taken to a Palenque and roasted in a pit oven. This is what gives Mezcal its distinctive smokey flavour.
2) Pulp and Ferment The roasted piñas are then mashed into a pulp, traditionally by a horse drawn stone wheel or ‘tahona’, and then left to ferment. The fermentation vessels vary from Palenque to Palenque, some copper, some clay and some wooden.
3) Distillation once the pulp has fermented it is distilled twice. And then either bottled straight away as ‘Blanco’ or ‘Joven’ Mezcal or it is left to age in oak barrels to produced Mezcal Reposado (6 months to 1 year) or Anejo. (1 year +). The ageing process will hugely effect the final taste and aroma of the Mezcal.
If you’re in Puerto Escondido and you haven’t yet tried Mezcal and would like to learn more make ‘Mezcaleros Puerto Escondido’ on Rinconada your first stop!