Mezcal or Tequila? A tough decision.

Mezcal or tequilaMezcal, which comes from agave like its more popular counterpart, tequila, has recently emerged as a trend on several cocktail lists. It is characterized as having a smoky taste that cannot be masked, even by the addition of fruit juices, sugar, or other mixers. It adds complexity to the usual tequila cocktails.

Whats the difference? Mezcal or tequila?  Tequila was originally distilled from the sap (called aquamiel, meaning honey water) from the heart (also called the pineapple) of the blue agave plant into a brandy known in old Mexico as vino mezcal.

Today, mezcal and tequila are two completely different liquors. Tequila may only be made from the blue agave in government-specified areas of Jalisco, Mexico, while mezcal may be made from any variety of agave. The original fermentation is 104 to 106 proof, but is reduced to 80 to 86 proof for shipment to the United States.

Mezcal can be mixed with tequila in a cocktail, which combines the two at varying proportions and contains many of the familiar ingredients of a margarita.

Mezcal partners particularly well with whiskey (especially scotch) and certain fruits such as orange and pineapple. Although Mexican dishes are the first that come to mind when pairing mezcal with food, the spirit also goes well with Asian food for example  “Fresh Hamptons” in Bridgehampton, N.Y, has a distinct Asian influence. The house mixologist, Douglas Sheehan, serves reposado mezcal with fresh pineapple juice, honey, chile, and lime for a sweet and spicy cocktail called “They Didn’t Burn Rome in a Day.”

Color in Tequila and Mezcal comes mostly from the addition of caramel, although barrel aging is a factor in some high-quality brands. Additionally, some distillers add small amounts of natural flavorings such as Sherry, prune concentrate, and coconut to manipulate the products flavor profile. These added flavors do not stand out themselves, but instead serve to smooth out the often hard-edged palate of agave spirits.

The American Realty crew got to sample both, side by side at the Taste of Playa 2013 and I have to say that in answering the question “Mezcal or tequila?” – I definitely prefer the tequila.  But only you can decide for yourself!!