Think you know about mezcal? Think again.
on 13/03/12 at 3:10 pmSpirits
That was before a tasting in Mexico City with Cornelio Perez, president of a group called Mezcales Tradicionales de los Pueblos de Mexico, and Ricardo Pandal, owner of a year-old mezcal cantina and restaurant named Patrona. I now know that most of what I knew was wrong.
Perez and Pandal demolished the hype about mezcal that importers have been pushing in the spirit’s expanding market in the U.S. and China, not least the assertion that mezcal’s identifying mark is the smokiness acquired by cooking the maguey plant (a form of agave) in earth-covered pit ovens.
“Those smoky mezcals they sell in the U.S. are not very good,” said Pandal. “They are made that way just to create a market different from tequila’s. They want people to think that mezcal is a rougher, more macho drink than tequila, which is made only from the blue agave plant.”
Perez, who was busy estimating the alcohol level by an ancient method of blowing into a straw pipe to create bubbles in cups of mezcal, chimed in: “Ha! There are hundreds of species of agave, and the blue agave is one of the worst! Blue agave has been cloned so much it is genetically weak, so the plants are given chemicals and pesticides to keep them healthy, which helps to hurry along their maturation.”