All you should know about Mezcal
Mezcal (from the Nahuatl, Mexcalmetl) refers to any distilled beverage of the maguey (agave) family of plants. Basically, tequila is a mezcal, but not all mezcals are tequila, since the Mexican government has established strict rules for who can make the popular drink, where it can be made, and which agave species be used in producing tequila.
Mexico is dead serious about its national drink – one can make mezcal from the same plant, using the same process, but the product may not carry the name tequila if it doesn’t come from authorized distilleries in authorized geographical zones.
Piñas that are destined for mezcal are baked in a stone pit oven over hardwood coals. They are then covered with layers of palm fiber mats and then buried. This process gives mezcal a smoky flavor. Mezcal is usually distilled only once, so it is somehow less ‘pure’ than tequila, which is usually distilled twice or even more.
In Mexico, mezcal is normally drunk straight, not mixed in a cocktail. One ritual associated with drinking mezcal is saying “Pa’rriba, pa’bajo, al centro y pa´dentro”, (which means “up, down, center and in”) before taking the first shot. Another ritual involves spilling a small amount onto the ground. This ritual serves as an offering to the Mayahuel, the goddess of maguey.
While most people do not mix it with any other liquids, many others add salt, or eat orange or lime slices with it. A traditional way to drink mezcal is as a shot, with a side plate of fried larvae ground with salt and chili peppers and cut limes. The drinker takes a pinch of the larvae mixture and places it on his or her tongue. The person then immediately, but slowly, begins to drink the shot.
If you’re a first-timer, the flavor can be very disagreeable, harsh and can cause coughing. Mezcal is an acquired taste, so you need to condition your taste buds.
Mezcal is very popular in Mexico to drink in the morning before having breakfast. Many people believe that this drink can help control certain diseases like diabetes and hypertension . Some even attest mezcal is an aphrodisiac.