Allow us to introduce you to tequila’s smoky friend, mezcal. We chatted with Chef/Partner Terry Lynch of Stripburger and El Segundo Sol who demystifies this often underrated spirit and shares with us its origin and how you can enjoy it at home.
Here’s the history:
Mezcal comes from Oaxaca, a state in southern Mexico known for its soulful eats and is allegedly, the birthplace of mole. The city itself is authentic and wildly artistic, which makes mezcal the perfect expression of the culture.
One technique indigenous to Mexican cooking is the charring of ingredients which achieves a smoky depth of flavor. That same charred flavor profile is one in the same with the smoky tasting notes of mezcal.
People often ask, what is the difference between mezcal and tequila?
The difference is in the method:
- It all begins with the agave plant from which mezcal and tequila both stem.
- When the plant is grown to its maturity (about 7 years) and looks like a large pineapple, it is trimmed to its core.
- In the tequila-making process, the leaves are roasted in huge ovens to caramelize the natural sugars.
- Artisanal mezcal uses a wood-fired underground pit — not an oven — to roast and caramelize the leaves. This allows the flavors of mezcal to be deeper and more smoky and rustic than tequila.
The number one misconception is that mezcal is not as approachable as tequila. But it is unique and wonderful — like an older, smokier, wiser brother to tequila! Stumped on where to find it? Chef Terry recommends checking out your local liquor store first and trying a few different mezcal options to see what you like. With that said, El Buho and Del Maguey Vida are both good bets in distribution and price.
Want to give it a go? Here are four mezcal recipes from Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba! and El Segundo Sol to mix up at home.
Oaxacan Mule – A traditional Moscow Mule with a twist of mezcal
Smoky Alban – Mix Cynar liquer with grapefruit for the smoky profile that mezcal is known for
Mango Mescalero – A little mango, a little chili pepper and a whole lot of flavor
Mezcal Mule – Think Moscow Mule but with hints of cucumber, passion fruit and of course, mezcal