Are you sitting down (preferably with a Margarita in hand)? Because we have something to report that might shock you: Though it is widely believed that mezcal is a type of tequila, tequila is actually a type of mezcal. That’s not the only bit of agave-based knowledge you need. Here, the three main differences between tequila and mezcal.
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Tequila is only made in Jalisco. Mezcal is made in multiple Mexican states.
The relationship between mezcal and tequila is similar to that of whiskey and scotch: Tequila is a type of mezcal made in a specific place, just as scotch is a type of whiskey made in a specific place.
Mezcal can be manufactured in eight different Mexican states, including Oaxaca, Durango, San Luis Potosí, Tamaulipas, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Zacatecas and Michoacán. Tequila, however, can only be made in Jalisco. The classification of “tequila” is actually a geographical indication owned by the government of Mexico.
Tequila is only made from blue agave. Mezcal is made from various agaves.
Tequila can only be made from one type of agave plant: the agave tequilana (blue agave). Mezcal, on the other hand, can be made from 28 different varieties of agave, including the blue agave (because, as we said before, tequila is mezcal).
Tequila is steamed. Mezcal is roasted.
Mezcal is known primarily for its signature smoky flavor. Distillers achieve that deep, campfire flavor by roasting the agave piñas in an earthen pit before crushing them and distilling their nectar. The tequila making process is a bit more industrial. Rather than roasting the piñas in the ground, tequila producers steam them in ovens, creating a brighter, fruitier flavor.
Got it? Good. After all that learning, you deserve a cocktail. Will it be tequila or mezcal?