Mezcal was a mystery wrapped in an enigma to me.
The word mezcal sounded too much like the hallucinogenic mescaline hailing from the same area of the world where mezcal is made, I just shied away from lack of understanding what it actually was. I knew it was sort of similar to tequila but smokier than the agave nectar from Mexico. How or why that was…I had no clue.
This week, I jumped in headfirst and discovered that like Canadian whiskey, Irish whisky, bourbon, rye, and Scotch – all of them whiskey but oh so very different – these ancient potions from the New World had nuances and distinct flavor profiles based on the regions they grew, the plants needed for this, and how they cooked the pina-core of the agave, in modern autoclaves or underground the ancient way.
I found that mezcal is historical in its production, culturally fascinating and fun to drink. Whether a Reposado, Joven or even Anejo mezcal, they could easily be swapped in traditional cocktails like Negronis and Old Fashioneds for a tasty twist.
Curious? Let’s go.
Let’s start with the knowledge that tequila can be considered mezcal. Tequila MUST be 100% agave.
Quality tequila AND mezcal will have on the label the state of origin, type of agave plant and if we are talking mezcal, the actual name of the mezcalero, or mezcal master.
Pinas are the heart of the agave plant (it looks like a prickly porcupine with the leaves still on it, until they are hacked away revealing the Pina) that is roasted by various methods, some old, some new, and ground by a Tahona (stone wheel) and fermented in open air vats with yeast, then distilled in copper or clay pots.
There were two mezcals I got to experiment with, Kimo Sabe mezcal Joven and Reposado, which just earned the following prestigious 10th Annual American Distilling Institute competition awards in multiple categories: Best of Class, Best of Category and the Gold Medal for Certified Craft Distilled Spirit & Certified Craft Blended Spirits.
Also on board was one of our favorites, auténtico mezcal Alacrán, a Joven (young) Oaxacan mezcal that was awarded a Double Gold Medal at the 2016 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
If you are an aficionado of tequila, the progression to mezcal will feel natural.
But know that tequila and mezcal are products of different states of Mexico, with a few exceptions.
Tequila is made in the Mexican states of Jalisco, Michoacan, Guanajuato, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas. Mezcal is made in Oaxaca, Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, San Luis Potosi, Tamaulipas, Zacatecas, and Michoacan.
Oaxaca turns out about 90 per cent of mezcals including the auténtico mezcal Alacrán.
As we covered, by law tequila can only be called tequila if it is made with Blue Agave. However, mezcal can be fashioned from over 30 varieties of agave, many (like Kimo Sabe Reposado) are made with Agave Espadin.
Here are some recipes that rock. For all of you craft cocktail fiends – check out this great link for converting ounces from millilitres and all that Euro-American translation measures intel.
Kimo Sabe trusted Margarita
1.5 oz. Kimo Sabe Reposado
¾ oz. Fresh Lime Juice
¾ oz. Fresh Lemon
½ oz Agave Nectar
*For the Spicy Kimo Margarita muddle in 2-3 slices of serrano chili.
In a shaker add ice, a pinch of Tajin, lime juice, agave and Kimo Sabe mezcal of choice, shake vigorously. Strain in a rimmed Tajin tumbler glass on the rocks.
Kimo’s Oaxacan Negroni
A take on our favorite summer swanky cocktail, the Negroni replacing vermouth with Lillet (the focus of our next Cocktail of the week!) and Campari with Aperol that allows the Kimo Sabe mezcal to pop.
1 oz. Kimo Sabe Reposado
1 oz. Lillet
1 oz. Aperol
Garnish- Orange peel
Glassware – Lowball glass
Tools needed – Mixing glass, jigger, barspoon
1. Add all ingredients to mixing glass
2. Add ice and stir
3. Strain over fresh ice into rocks glass
4. Garnish with orange peel
*Use a Highball glass
2 oz mezcal Alacran
25 ml of lemon juice (a little under a 1-ounce shot)
25 ml of coconut milk (a little under a 1-ounce shot)
1.Blend with ice and all the ingredients. Top it off with a splash of lemon soda.
2. Garnish with a slice of orange. Enjoy!
*Use an Old fashion glass
1 1/2 ounces mezcal Alacran
25 ml mandarin liqueur (just under a 1-ounce shot)
1 tablespoon agave nectar
25 ml lemon juice (just under a 1-ounce shot)
1 1/2 ounces lime juice
Shake all the ingredients. Strain easily. Garnish with a slice of lime. Enjoy!
1.5 oz mezcal Alacran
1 oz maracuya (Passionfruit) juice
1 oz hibiscus juice
0.5 oz mango juice
0.5 chili powder
4-5 oz ice
Garnish with a slice of orange. Blend with ice and all the ingredients. Enjoy!