What is a Mezcal?
Mezcal is the umbrella name for any spirit distilled from maguey (agave), of which there are many: tequila, bacanora, sotol, raicilla, san carlos, espadin, and papalote, just to name a few. (According to Mexican law, however, a bottle can only be labeled “mezcal” if its contents are produced from specific regions and types of maguey.)
Each region, elevation, and variety of maguey produce distinct flavors, not to mention the influence of the hand of each small producer as they smoke and ferment the hearts of agave.
The distilled spirit is then aged in barrels to mellow and refine the taste—joven is young mezcal, reposado aged 2-12 months, añejo over 12 months—and flavored with additions like the famous gusano, or worm. (In recent years Oaxaca has seen a rise in the industrial production of mezcal, its producers aiming for the international success of its cousin, tequila. The industrial process will often use steamed agave hearts instead of smoked, which produces a cleaner flavor, though some mezcal aficionados miss the traditional smoky depth.)
Photo: Anna Stockwell
MAKES 1 COCKTAIL
- Mix the salt and the chili powder together on a small plate. Run a lemon wedge around the glass to moisten, and rim the glass with chili salt.
- Combine the lemon wedges, cucumber, and a pinch of chili salt in the bottom of a shaker and muddle well. Add mezcal, agave nectar, and ice. Shake and strain into a margarita glass over fresh ice.
Enjoy it’s the weekend but most importantly, enjoy your Oaxaca Mezcal Cooler!
- thing I like: Mezcal (notmartha.org)
- Jalapeño infused Mezcal (thedrunkencrane.com)
- Tequila, Mexico (therobotmusteat.com)