- Business Insider spoke to Stoli Group Brand Ambassador Simone Bodini to find out what the difference between tequila and mezcal is.
- It turns out tequila is actually a mezcal.
- However, tequila is produced with blue weber agave only, and is produced only in the state of Jalisco and some municipalities of Michoacan, Nayarit, Tamaulipas, and Guanajuato.
- A different method is also used in the production process.
Whether you’ve always been a fan or are only just discovering them, there’s no denying that tequila and mezcal are becoming pretty trendy.
But if you don’t actually know the difference between the two, you’re probably not alone.
Business Insider spoke to Stoli Group Brand Ambassador Simone Bodini to get to the bottom of what they really are.
Born and bred in Italy, the 38-year-old has been in the drinks industry since 1997, and was even crowned Bartending World Champion in 2006.
As Global Brand Ambassador, he now travels the world training, teaching masterclasses, and telling the stories of the company’s brands, including Se Busca mezcal, which launched in July this year.
“Actually, tequila is a mezcal,” Bodini told Business Insider – but there are a number of ways they two are different.
“The word mezcal comes from the nahuatl which means cooked agave,” he said. “In Mexico, all the agave spirits are called mezcal, but then we have the denomination of origins.”
He explained that tequila is produced with blue weber agave only, while mezcal in general can be produced with one or a combination of the 28-39 species of agave.
He added that tequila is also produced only in the state of Jalisco and some municipalities of Michoacan, Nayarit, Tamaulipas, and Guanajuato, while mezcal is produced in many parts of Mexico, including Oaxaca – where Se Busca is made – Durango, Guerrero, Zacatecas, Michoacan, Puebla, and San Luis Potosi.
“To make tequila the heart of the plants or ‘piñas’ are usually cooked with steam (brick oven, autoclave, etc.). For the artisanal mezcal, a different method is applied – the piñas are cooked with wood fire ground ovens to give mezcal its smoky flavour profile. It’s an intense labour production, handcrafted, with very low use of machines.
“Fermentation is achieved using native wild yeasts in open vats and distillation is carried out in small volume with copper stills (batch distillation).”
According to Bodini, people often assume mezcal has to come with an agave worm in the bottle, but he says this is a myth.
“They used to put a worm in the spirit to show the difference between mezcal from tequila,” he explained.
Se Busca isn’t the only new mezcal on the block
Casamigos, the brand launched by George Clooney and Rande Gerber which was bought by Diageo for $US1 billion in 2017, also brought out a mezcal in February this year.
“We were lucky enough to meet the family who was making the best mezcal in Oaxaca, Mexico and once we tried it, we knew it would eventually become part of the Casamigos family,” Gerber told Business Insider. “At the time, all of our attention was focused on sharing Casamigos Tequila with the world, but we didn’t want to lose the chance of having this mezcal, so we stayed in touch with them.
“They understood our passion and commitment to Casamigos and were kind enough to be patient.”
He added that the mezcal is “smooth with no burn and smoked to perfection,” thanks to the mezcal production process which creates “the distinct smoky flavour.”
‘Mezcal is meant to be kissed’
To enjoy mezcal, which Bodini calls “the most complex spirit in the world,” the Stoli ambassador stressed that you don’t shoot it, but instead drink it slowly, whether that’s neat or in a cocktail like a margarita, mule, or Old Fashioned.
“One reason is because mezcal is higher in alcohol volume than other spirits, so you should drink it with respect,” he said. “In Oaxaca we drink Se Busca mezcal neat, sometimes with worm salt by the side.”
He added: “Also, remember that mezcal can be the produce of more than 20 species of agave, so sip it slowly so you can taste the agave notes. As the people of Mexico say ‘that mezcal is meant to be kissed.'”
If you’re still confused, check out this chart which explains the difference between the two:
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