Everything you need to know about mezcal
02-May-2018 12:00 AM
Mezcal, the rustic, smokier cousin of tequila, has become somewhat of a crowd favourite among Sydney’s hip drinking crowd, mostly thanks to the team at Tio’s Cerveceria in Surry Hills Sydney.
So what is mezcal?
Mezcal and tequila are both made from the agave plant - native to Mexico and some areas in Southern California and Arizona, but the big difference between the two is how the plant is cooked prior to fermentation.
When making tequila, the agave is cooked with steam and takes between 6 and 24 hours. For mezcal, the plant is roasted in a wood-fired pit oven for up to a week. After the roasting process the plant is crushed to extract the juice, which is then fermented into alcohol and distilled. Mezcal is usually distilled twice, and legally will be between 36 and 55% alcohol (abv).
What makes mezcal so special?
The thing about the agave plant is that it’s not an annual crop like most plants, agave plants only have one life, so once they’re harvested, they’re gone. Since it takes a minimum of 8 years - and sometimes up to 20 - for the plant to mature enough to make alcohol, and each plant is absorbing everything in the microclimate during that time, each plant can be very unique.
How to pick a good mezcal
Mezcal has a big, bold and expressive flavour that’s really unique and each variety is different. If you’re not sure where to start looking for a great product, keep an eye out for labels that say ‘artisanal’ or ‘ancestral’ and always choose mezcal with a minimum abv of 40%.
Most mezcal purists drink it neat, but it’s just as good in a mezcal sour - mixed with lemon and lime juice, or as a mezcal Sazerac - mixed with tequila, absinthe and bitters. If you’d like to pair it with a meal, go for a seafood dish, or any meal with high acidity.