What is Mezcal and What Does it Taste Like?


If you’re like most people you’d probably have a difficult time explaining to someone what mezcal is. It’s common to know that mezcal is “kind of like” tequila, but beyond that, most people are in the dark about mezcal and what it tastes like. That’s OK. After you read this post, you’ll know exactly what mezcal is and will be anxious to give it a try!


What is Mezcal?


Mezcal is a distilled alcohol spirit that is made from the heart of the agave plant. Agave is a desert plant that once chopped, resembles a giant pineapple. While tequila is made from a limited number of agave species, mezcal on the other hand is produced from a far wider range of agave plants. Mezcal is a term for a broader class of spirits produced from agave. All tequilas are in fact mezcals, but not all mezcals are tequilas.


Mezcal is produced by taking the high-sugar-content agave hearts, which can weigh upwards of 80 pounds, chopping them into quarters, and cooking them. This cooking is actually a slow-roasting over three days done inside earthen pits lined with hot lava rocks, and sometimes charcoal. After roasting, the hearts are mashed and left to ferment, along with some added water, in large vats or oak barrels.. This crushing is traditionally done using horses turning a stone wheel. Once fermentation is complete the liquid is collected and then distilled in clay or copper pots. After some time this resulting product is distilled once more, and then bottled to be sold.


Mezcal is typically 40-55% alcohol and is made primarily in the Oaxaca region of Mexico. Production is mostly done in small batches by farmers using techniques passed down from generations ago. Even the tools they use today are the same style as those used hundreds of years ago. Since 2014, mezcal production in Mexico has increased about 34% a year on average, and in 2020 hit almost 8 million liters.


While roughly 200 bottles of tequila are sold for every 1 bottle mezcal, the total global market for mezcal is expected to reach about $1.1 billion by 2027.


What Does Mezcal Taste Like?


Due to the roasting process, mezcal has a smoky flavor. Depending on the brand, this smoky flavor may be highly pronounced, even overpowering. However, many mezcals are indeed subtle. It’s all a matter of company and brand.


In the end, flavor and taste depend on the species of agave used, the soil it was grown in, the roasting details, and the distillation process. No two mezcals are the same! Mezcal is as complex as whiskey, and words used to describe its taste range from floral, to citrusy, to peppery, jalapeno(ish), and even rubbery.


Ways to Drink Mezcal


There’s a mezcal out there for everyone. It’s just a matter of tasting a few and seeing what style you enjoy. Not only do we recommend trying a variety of mezcals, but we also recommend trying it in a variety of styles. Some people enjoy drinking it fresh from the bottle at room temperature, or with rocks. In this style, you can take your time and enjoy the mezcal experience...it isn’t meant to be shot down like a cheap tequila. But, mezcal is also fantastic in cocktails due to its flexibility. You can enjoy a mezcal margarita, mezcal mule, mezcal negroni, mezcal sour, and so much more.


Why not try mezcal today at Mezcali, NYC’s number one location for mezcal. We are located in the heart of the financial district at 83 Maiden Lane. Give us a call at 917-409-5881 to reserve your spot at our bar and try one of our mezcal tastings!