The history of agave spirits dates back to the time of the Spanish conquistadors in the early 1500s. The Spaniards’ knowledge of distillation and the natives’ knowledge of making an intoxicating beverage from the agave plant married to form the industry of Mexican spirits that we know today.
While tequila is made specifically from blue-agave plants, mezcal can be made from a variety of agaves and is primarily made from espadin. Mezcal starts in the agave fields, in which the plants are allowed to mature for a period of 6 to 10 years, on average. At maturity, the piñas (the core of the plant) are stripped of their leaves, harvested and brought to the roasting pits. The piñas are cut in half and thrown on top of smoldering rocks gathered from the countryside and riverbeds. They are then covered with dirt and allowed to roast for 3 to 5 days. The roasted piñas are uncovered, crushed, fermented and then distilled. The resulting liquid is then redistilled and bottled.
The process of roasting the piñas over smoldering rocks gives mescal a distinct smoky flavor, similar to that of some Scotch whiskies. Its smoke flavor is earthy with a touch of minerality. Since agave plants are naturally sweet, so is the resulting distillate. Most mezcals are produced in the small villages surrounding the mountains of the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca. Each village has its own secrets for growing agave plants and giving agave juice its own unique terroir, just like wine. The traditional way to enjoy mezcal is to sip the spirit from clay cups, called copitas, with no additions. However, as of late, bartenders north of the border have been experimenting with this fantastic spirit as the base for wonderfully crafted cocktails.
Storming the Beach
Recipe by Lindsay Baker
Serves | 1 |
- 1 oz Del Maguey Vida
- ¾ oz Dolin Blanc vermouth
- ½ oz fresh lime juice
- ½ oz Pommeau*
- ½ oz Cherry Heering
| Preparation | Combine all ingredients in a mixing tin. Add ice and shake for 15 seconds. Fine-strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
*Pommeau is an apple brandy made in the Normandy region of France. This product can be found at Randall’s Wines and Spirits.