Intro: What Do You Need to Know to Enjoy Mezcal?
Nothing at all really. So long as you have tastebuds on your tongue, no explanation is required. But ‘appreciation’ is a different story. Bolstered by some foundational knowledge, you’ll be equipped to fully appreciate the complexities of this fine elixir. Yes, there will be a test at the end, but don’t worry, all the answers will be available upon your first sip.
Ch.1 WTF is Mezcal?
Mezcal is a blanket term for any distilled spirit made from the agave cactus. So tequila is a mezcal as it is distilled from the agave tequilana or ‘Blue Agave’. As such, all tequilas are mezcals but not all mezcals are tequillas. *(See Logic 101 Necessary and Sufficient Conditions).
Ch. 2 What am I Tasting?
Unlike tequila, which by definition can only come from one species of agave, mezcal can be produced from over 30 different species of agave cacti. Much of the fun with mezcal tastings comes from diving into the unique flavor profiles offered by each agave species. Multiply each agave’s unique tasting notes by the practice of combining multiple species together in one blend, (known as an ‘Ensemble’) and you have thousands of flavor profiles to enjoy. Then multiply that number times the various processes of distillation and you have a lifetime of blissful mezcal flavors that any Sommelier would have to respect.
*(1 agave species flavor X combinations of ALL agave species X varying distillation processes = endless Mezcal enjoyment). *(See Mathematics 101).
Ch. 3 How?... Why?
While tasting notes vary significantly; (fruity, floral, vegetal, earthy, minerality, peppery, piney, anise, cardamom, grassy, honey, tobacco, sweet corn, wood, leather, vanilla, citrus, etc.) the most commonly noticed flavor is that of smoke. This smokiness can be attributed to the roasting of the agave’s heart or ‘Pina’ in order to break down the agave’s sugars before fermentation. *(See chemistry 101). The roasted agave is then hand-muddled or crushed by a donkey-powered grinding wheel. *(For difference between horsepower and donkeypower see Physics and Biology 101). In open-air vats, the liquid from the rinsed and roasted agave ferments as its exposure to wild yeasts creates alcohol. The fermented liquid is then double or triple distilled in copper or clay stills and the spirit we know as mezcal takes its ultimate form.
Ch. 4 Traditional and Modern Methods of Enjoyment
The traditional method for enjoying mezcal is by sipping neat, (NEVER SHOOTING) out of ‘jicaras’ or small dried gourds. These shallow cups with their wide tops offer a greater surface area for the mezcal to breathe while enabling you to smell as you taste. Accompanying the jicaras is often a plate of sliced oranges sprinkled with ‘sal de gusano’ or worm salt made from chiles and roasted worms that live inside the agave cactus. The oranges with the red worm salt act as a palate cleanser intended to be bitten in between sips to revisit the mezcal each time to continually unveil more tasting notes.
In mezcal’s meteoric rise in popularity, it has been utilized by mixologists who have learned its ability to transform cocktails and add a rich complexity, even when mixed with other spirits. As the world’s first alcohol-free mezcal, we have found our own Monday Mezcal to especially shine in this space of mixology, adding layers of interest to zero-proof cocktails previously unseen in the Non-Alc space.
This concludes your crash course in mezcal. It’s time to close your books and open your bottles; your mind is sure to follow. It's time for the test. So go ahead, test it out! Add it to an array of cocktails, take detailed tasting notes, and remember, there are no wrong answers, simply enjoyment.
Article Contributed by Alex Newsome. Not only is Alex Monday's talented copywriter, he's also a Mezcal connoisseur! If you have any questions about our Monday Mezcal feel free to shoot him an email (email@example.com). If you ask really nicely he might even share his favorite secret recipes with you ;)