Tequila and Mezcal: There’s something magical about these two ancient drinks!

According to the Industry ARC report, By 2026, the Tequila & Mezcal Market size is expected to reach $12.1 billion, growing at a CAGR of 6.7%.

Here is an informative memoir piece, written by Leopoldo Gomez-Diaz. On this page, you are going to read about a world-famous ancient drink- Tequila and Mezcal. You will read some facts too, and don’t forget to read the final comments at the bottom section.

There are different ways to drink tequila/mezcal: “Derecho” straight, without soda, water, or anything. You can drink tequila/mezcal in cocktails or with salt and lemon, or maybe with “Sangrita”, which is a red sauce made with tomato and lemon juice, cilantro, a little onion, and some chili, and English sauces.

Cocktail
  • Tequila and Mezcal are ancient Mexican spirits, and made with the same plant-‘Agave’ but both have a difference.
  • Tequila is a unique spirit produced mainly in Jalisco, Mexico. Even though there are several varieties of agave plants, tequila is made only from the blue agave Weber.
  • Tequila is typically steamed using mainly industrial methods of a brick oven, autoclave, or diffuser. Mezcal, on the other hand, is produced from different agave plants, about 30 or more.
  • The mezcal’s ovens are in the ground with river stones and volcanic rocks on the walls, covered with wood and a tarp to keep in the heat where the agave’s heart (piñas) is slowly roasted, burned, and fermented which generates a smoky flavor. 
  • The usual mezcal production process is an artisanal one, usually made in small batches according to old family recipes, in smaller factories compared with the ones for tequila.
  • These two drinks have at least 40% alcohol by volume, but mezcal has a higher concentration. 
  • According to NOM legislation, mezcal must be between 35% and 55% alcohol by volume (ABV), and tequilas between 35 and 40%.
  • It is named after the town of Tequila in Jalisco, Mexico, where it was developed shortly after the Spaniards introduced distillation to Mexico.
  • Compared to tequila, mezcal is stronger. Want to read more about Mezcal, click at https://www.bhg.com/recipes/trends/what-is-mezcal/
  • Mezcal history started around 400 years ago, and tequila first came into existence in 250-300 A.D.

Tequila and Mezcal: Flavors and aromas of my soul

Leopoldo Gomez-Diaz

Leopoldo Gomez-Diaz is this story’s author, and the story is based on his life experiences.

He is from Mexico City. He is a retired Engineer and was related 40 years to The Mexican Petroleum Institute. He taught at The National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) for some years.
Afterward, he earned a post-graduate degree. Mostly, he has been supporting the decision-making process related to strategic and technological planning, economic studies, project evaluation, energy analysis, training, and marketing strategies.

He was continuously supporting the CEO and the decision-makers. Now, he is retired and involved in writing and studying something new in California.

Has it happened to you that a single flavor or aroma evokes your memories?

Have you ever tried to comfort your soul by imagining a specific situation in certain conditions? Do you know that tequila and mezcal are just as good as well-known cognacs or whiskeys?

Tequila and mezcal, like a spark, trigger my imagination

Mezcal drink

Tequila and mezcal, two ancient Mexican drinks, are distilled and fermented nectars with unique flavors and aromas that establish a mysterious and complicit relationship not only with my senses but with my entire being.

Both trigger the beginning of new sensations and emotions from my memories and future desires, through reality or imaginary journeys with a special person, event, or perhaps and more importantly, within myself.

I grew up hearing that these two drinks can help build relationships, open doors, and reduce cholesterol levels, but most importantly, I verified that at a table accompanied by my close people and sharing a good tequila or mezcal it is easier to open communication and lasting bonds of friendship.

Tequila and mezcal, like a spark, trigger my imagination and inspiration to clarify my emotions, order my thoughts and remember various experiences related to living and deceased relatives, friends, and myself.

          

One ancestor tradition is to drink mezcal and/or tequila spirits

tequila drink

  My taste and preference for tequila and mezcal are probably because I was born with some portion of the agave elixir in my veins because my mother was originally from Jalisco and my father from Oaxaca, the main State where the agave drinks are produced.

Mexico is a country rich in traditions, some of them related to ceremonies, customs, religion, and family. One ancestor tradition is to drink mezcal and/or tequila spirits. My mother used to have a cup of coffee in the early morning and one tequila shot before the main meal.

I grew up with these two aromas. Then, when I was getting older and tasted the spirit, I liked it, and still, I love it not only for the aroma and the flavor but for the memories that come to my mind.

           

The beautiful landscapes where the agave grows up

Nowadays as an adult person, every time I perceive the aroma I remember my country, the cities where I spent some time of my life, the beautiful landscapes where the agave grows up, and more importantly, the people with whom I have shared special moments, like my mother, sons, brothers, relatives, and friends.

There is a kind of romance between the characteristic flavor and aromas of the agave with my inner self, that is perceived through my senses. For example, I remember some deep conversations with my mom in her 80-87s, describing her childhood in Jalisco, while she was living with her parents. 

Once she described in detail, in her own words, how people in her town “milled grain using river water energy to move a big wheel that was connected with the mill devices”. This kind of conversation took place every time we drove to Cocoyoc with her where we used to have tequila in the garden talking about life, family, and my dad who had passed away a long time ago.

Every tequila sip brought back her memories of that time as if they were from the previous week.

Another memory is the one related to the day my mother died at home. It was with a lot of sadness but at the same time comforting because a few minutes before she passed away, when nothing else could have helped her when she was in the pre-death process making those peculiar noises, we opened a special bottle of tequila, and with a small cotton, one of my sisters deposited a few drops on her lips, my mom tasted it, smiled, and then left.

It was really a relief to see her go to another dimension in peace, with a smile; she left happy, just as she was in life. I remember quite a lot of those moments and conversations with her, so I miss them a lot.

            There are specific ancestral town festivities where agave grows, and some dancers drink it to initiate a catharsis that could help transform their energy and soul to be in union with the gods. In this way, there is a belief that tequila or mezcal works as a catalyst to facilitate the shamanic connection so that the dancer reaches another identity, perhaps in another dimension.

Every agave sip invites me

agave plant
Agave Plant

Every time I try the flavor and aroma of tequila I imagine or remember an interesting and pleasant company in a deep conversation in a specific place where I have been enjoying the distillate with my loved ones, for example in Mexico City, Puerto Vallarta, Cocoyoc, Chapala lagoon, or Campbell and Los Gatos in California. 

“When I taste mezcal I remember my sons, their houses, and their weddings, the Cantaritos” (kind of Margarita cocktail) at the parks. Every agave sip invites me to be part of a current of thoughts, is like digging into my memories, getting sensations, ideas, or wish packages that start my imagination to travel across the universe of my mind and to meet with my close people, either in one kind of imaginary adventure or in a real past event. When I taste tequila or mezcal, I feel the pleasant scents in my nose and the flavors in my mouth. If I am alone, I can have different feelings such as nostalgia, happiness, or the inspiration to write some ideas, poems, or essays. This was the case when I started to write essays about my experiences in this life.”

First, I defined the general road, and then I focused on writing details in the early mornings while drinking coffee. The taste of the agave reminds me of the person, the place, the situation, the specific topic of conversation, the emotions I felt when it happened, or my wishes of what I would like to happen when imagining some hypothetical situation. Such is the complicity power of tequila/mezcal.

The best way to drink tequila/mezcal is by talking, eating, or dancing with agreeable company. 

people drinking liquor and talking on dining table close up photo
Photo by Helena Lopes on Pexels.com

White drinks (Blancoy Cristalino) are recommended as an aperitif, you can taste the flavor of the agave plant that makes a nice marriage with the start of the meal.

Then, in the end, you might enjoy an Old (Reposado), Aged (Añejo), or Reserva as a digestive. I would recommend drinking the spirits slowly to get all the flavor and aroma richness of the agave plant and barrel, and all its energy; take your time, feel the sensations, and let the elixir does its function inside your senses meanwhile, you might have an interesting activity with special people, or traveling inside your mind, go deeper and deeper, just enjoy the moments.

            In my case, I drink more tequila than mezcal, but lastly, I really love Margaritas or “Cantaritos” with mezcal due to the fact that the smoky flavor is predominant and fits quite well when it is properly mixed.

I also think that in some situations, and with one or two shots, I could develop my intuition sense, to be alert or to wake up to reality to face specific situations, for example when I presented my oral dissertation at the university, previously I was so nervous, my shirt was soaked with sweat. That day, my older brother and I had a tequila shot, and I performed great during my exam, I even made some jokes because I felt very confident.

           

Both drinks feed my soul traditionally

The tequila/mezcal aromas remember me of the wet soil’s scent where agave is growing, the ones from the agave plants and the ones from the wood barrel. I also can enjoy the nectar’s flavors that Inevitably link with the mariachi music, the colorful fires in the night, and of course, some other times, in festivities or special events, where the agave elixirs get a perfect match with mariachi music, in which happiness is the main ingredient to share with loved ones because both agave spirits and mariachi music, feed my soul with its traditional sounds. This combination is very usual in my family traditions, in Jalisco, and in the whole country. There are other moments in which I prefer just to be with myself, listening to the sounds of emptiness, going deep through my mind, and trying to find answers about myself.

            The most memorable family festivities I remember were those in which mariachi music and tequila/mezcal were present; like my mother’s last birthday parties where she sang, danced, and had a great time with us in Mexico City; my sons’ weddings, one with mariachi outside the Harvard University Chapel in Boston where the wedding ceremony was, and then tequila at a nearby venue where we all danced and shared an unforgettable evening. I remember that, in my role as his father, I gave a speech, my first one in English which I prepared some days in advance, remembering some of his achievements, even though my English pronunciation was awful, I felt confident, maybe because of the tequila power and the happiness to see everybody enjoying this wedding. Even though my older son likes tequila, he has switched his preferences to mezcal, but I guess he still loves both. When I have dinner at his house, after meals he offers mezcal as a digestif, he has an impressive collection of mezcal bottles.  

Tequila in wedding

            On the other side, my younger son’s wedding party was quite different. It was in a traditional place in Mexico City where the Mexicas built fertile “relatively small islands” on the water channels used to grow flowers and vegetables called “Chinampas de Xochimilco” where the couple got married by their own “laws”, without a judge or a priest, it was a celebration where all the guests had to arrive at the place using a kind of colored boat called “trajineras”.

Mexican Wedding

The party featured live folk music, it was original, unforgettable, and beautiful, with the color and flavor of Mexico. My younger son chose a small and specific mezcal production from Oaxaca for his wedding party.

All his guests appreciated the mezcal’s flavor and aroma combined nicely with some of the Mexican traditional meals such as “mole, pipian, tamales, Chocolate atole”, and huge baskets full of seasonal fruits which were served to all of them. Even though my two sons really like tequila, I think they prefer mezcal, because of its stronger flavor and because it combines well in cocktails.

            Another celebration was the 70th-anniversary party of my cousin in Guadalajara, which is the mariachi cradle as well as the closest city where tequila is produced in Jalisco, with many relatives that I had not seen for a long time and with whom I started new activities. All these festivities were amazing, each one with its emotional touch, and a bunch of memories, in all events sharing happiness and friendship.

Mexican Mariachi Music Group

Final Comments

            There are different ways to drink tequila/mezcal: “Derecho” straight, without soda, water, or anything. Also, you can drink tequila/mezcal in cocktails, or with salt and lemon, or maybe with “Sangrita”, which is a red sauce made with tomato and lemon juice, cilantro, a little onion, and some chili, and English sauces.

The best Sangrita is the one you prepare yourself at home. When I have special guests, I love to prepare Sangrita to show them my pleasure in having them at home. Mezcal, on the other hand, is traditionally consumed mainly straight with “sal de gusano,” a mixture of salt, chili powder, and dried worms, or you might prepare an attractive and flavored cocktail too.

            Ancient tequila and mezcal, in the proper quantities, bring back many memories and inspire my emotions, feelings, and love for my people, country, places, and specific situations.

These distillates inspire me and activate my senses to be more receptive to my environment and activate my intuition, inspiration, and perception. It is the perfect complicity for feeling, thinking, writing, speaking, sharing, and loving.

            There are so many sayings and beliefs about tequila and mezcal.

Some are related to health issues, and others to longings, desires, pure poetry, humor, and popular beliefs. For example, at home my mom drank a cup of tequila every day because she argued, her cardiologist recommended that she drink it to lower her cholesterol levels.

Some other popular beliefs are that these distillates improve sleep and help the digestion process, while others say that, in adequate proportions, it is a powerful aphrodisiac, which repairs heartbreak, erases sadness, and renews hope. Also, it helps to open doors, make strong personal or business relationships, and improve your voice, or you might become smarter, nicer, and even more attractive. With these drinks the improbable becomes possible. Hard to believe, but it could be true!

With tequila or mezcal, you will never be shy again! Dare yourself!

         This has been my complicity with the flavors and aromas of mezcal and tequila that have given me, to a certain extent, the inspiration to make my real or imaginary trips through the universe of my mind to meet my emotions, thoughts, and feelings.

            “Para todo mal mezcal y para todo bien también”.

            Life is like a tequila shot, the secret is not only the way you prepared it to enjoy it but, most importantly, with whom you share these magical moments!

            Cheers!

            Salud!


people drinking Tequila liquor at the party
people drinking Tequila liquor at the party

Part II: Some additional Tequila and Mezcal information

What is it?

The tequila and mezcal process uses ovens to cook the agave hearts (piñas). This cooking generates much of the flavor. Tequila is produced only in Jalisco, and 4 other States around. Meanwhile, mezcal can be produced in 9 States, such as Oaxaca, and Guerrero. Jalisco produces around 90% of tequila while Oaxaca 85% of the mezcal of national production.

Tequila fields in Jalisco

            Before the 1990s, tequila and mezcal were almost unknown in international markets. It was not until four elements occurred that the drinks appeared strongly in the international market: they first obtained the Denomination of Origin in 1974 for tequila (mezcal 1994). Second, the Mexican Regulatory Council for the Quality of Tequila was created in 1994 (Mezcal 1997). Third, the Official Standard NOM-006-SCFI-1994 for Tequila (NOM-070 for Mezcal 2016) was established. Fourth, some large distilleries were bought by international companies.   Companies have invested money in publicity and improving the distillery’s infrastructure. All these changes have increased demand and the tequila/mezcal market price. Mezcal, once consumed mainly by the poor, began to emerge amid a turbulent time for Tequila in the 1990s when weber agave became scarce.

           

Tequila distilleries and some brand
Tequila distilleries and some brand

Both mezcal and tequila are aged after distillation, mezcal is typically aged less than tequila. In tequila, aging is the main factor not only for flavor but also for the price. Additionally, there are many mezcal flavors you can taste, some of them with worm, chicken breasts, and others even scorpions macerating in the bottle.

            “Mezcal de Gusano”. Mezcal with worm was discovered as a serendipity when larvae began appearing in mezcal bottles which producers thought improved mezcal taste. Actually, the worm is not alive, and it’s not a worm. It’s the larvae of a moth, called “gusano de maguey”. Afterward, mezcal producers started adding “worms” to all their bottles as a marketing strategy.

            “Mezcal de Pechuga”. Mezcal with breasts is made when a finished mezcal is redistilled with local fruits, grains, and nuts, and a raw chicken or turkey breast is hung over the still, cooking in the emanating vapors, supposedly adding to the spirit’s final flavor.

            According to the aging time in barrels, spirits can be:

Tequilas: White (Blanco, 3 months in barrel), Old (Reposado, 3-12 months in barrel), Cristalino (2 years in barrel, and filtered with activated carbon), Aged (Añejo 1-8 years), or Reserva (more than 8 years in barrels).

Mezcals: White (Blanco, 0 months in barrel), Old (Reposado, 2-12 months in barrel), Aged (Añejo 1-3 years), or Reserva (more than 3 years in barrels).

            Both Tequila and mezcal are spirits, fermented distiller drinks like whiskies and cognacs, but obtained from different raw ingredients. They are as good and can be as expensive as cognacs or whiskies.

The spirits “100% Agave” have higher quality, (there are some others that are 51% agave which is used to mix with soda or cocktails), and they are wonderful drinks that should be savored slowly in an appropriate cup. The finer bottles, just like aging whiskies and cognacs, may cost hundreds of dollars a bottle.

Mezcal artesanal distilleries and some brands

            The biggest difference between Mezcal and Tequila is that while both are made by extracting juices from the agave plant, the way the plant is treated differs greatly. Tequila is generally produced by steaming the plant, while Mezcal gets its smokier, complex flavor profile from the way the piña is fire-roasted, cooking in earthen ovens lined with lava rocks. According to NOM legislation, mezcal must be between 35% and 55% alcohol by volume (ABV), and tequilas between 35 and 40%.

Mezcal fields in Oaxaca

            Every distiller can make Mezcal with different levels and profiles of smoke. Some are mild and spicy, and some others are intense. All of them blend well with cocktails without losing their characteristic smoky flavor.

            The next table contains some tequila/mezcal compared characteristics.

                       Mezcal                      Tequila
Mexican States producers. (“Denomination of Origen”)Oaxaca,  Guerrero, Durango, Guanajuato,  San Luis Potosí, Tamaulipas, Zacatecas, and Michoacán. (since 1994)Jalisco, Nayarit, Guanajuato, Michoacán, and Tamaulipas. (since 1974)
 Average alcohol content  40-55% ABV 35-40% ABV
Types of agave plants used to produce.About 30+:  Espadin, Tobala, Tepeztate, Cupreata, Pichumel, Cenizo, Coyote, Jabali, Lumbre, Serrano, among others. Just 1: Blue Weber
ProductionArtisanal NOM-070-SCFI-2016Industrialized, but some artisanal. NOM-006-SCFI-1994
Main Companies covered the Market.Rey Campero, El Silencio Holdings, INC, Los Amantes Mezcal S.A. de C.V, Lágrimas de Dolores, Gem & Bolt, LLC, Mezcal Vago, Pernod Ricard, Ilegal Mezcal, Diageo PLC, and William Grant & Sons Ltd., and Fidencio Mezcal.Pernod Ricard S.A. (France), Diageo Plc (U.K.), Bacardi Limited (Bermuda), Suntory Holdings Limited (Japan), Heaven Hill Distilleries, Inc. (U.S.), Campari Group (Italy), Sazerac Company Inc. (U.S.), Brown-Forman Corporation (U.S.), Casa Aceves (México), Constellation Brands, Inc.(U.S.)
Largest Brands in the US (Annual Sales in USD Billions)DanzantesDel MagueyIlegalBanhezEl JolgorioCampari’s BacardiCampari’s MontelobosDiageo’s CasamigosSombraReal MineroMezcaleroRey CamperoMezcal VagoSauza.-Bean Suntory, 2021: $19.8Jose Cuervo-Beckmann family- 2020: Annual Revenue $4.21Patrón-Bacardi Limited. 2020: $1.37Don Julio.-Casamigos 2020: $1.12Herradura & El Jimador-Brown-Forman’sHornitos-Beam Suntory1800 Tequila-Beckmann family
Market size (USD Billions)0.338 en 2022 2.1 en 2030 Source: Straits Research, May 15, 20229.7 en 2021 15.6 en 2029 Source: Fortune Business Insights Nov 15, 2022
Average time agave plants to reach maturityBetween 8 and 25+ years 7 years on average
Main cooked process Roasted in earthen ovens under the groundSteamed in brick ovens, autoclaves, or diffusers.
FlavorSmoky and sweet. Depends on the cooked process and agave varietal.The sweet, flavor depends more on the aged barrels.
Prices depend onVarietal used and ageThe more age the higher price

Read other articles by Leopoldo Gomez-Diaz at https://journals-times.com/2022/08/11/it-was-a-soccer-game-that-taught-me-many-valuable-life-lessons/

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