What is Mezcal?

Mezcal is a distilled alcoholic drink that has grown in popularity recently.

Mezcal is manufactured from the same agave plant that is used to make tequila, but the procedure is different. Mezcal may be created from any agave plant, unlike tequila, which can only be prepared from the blue agave plant.

Mezcal is produced in a different way than tequila. The agave plant is roasted during the production of mezcal, giving the drink its unique smokey flavor. The agave is first roasted, then crushed, and then fermented.

The resultant liquid is then subjected to distillation, yielding a clear, powerful spirit that often contains 40% alcohol by volume. Although mezcal is frequently consumed neat, it can also be added to cocktails.

What is Mezcal?


Mezcal is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from the agave plant. Unlike tequila, which is made only from blue agave, mezcal can be made from any type of agave plant.

The production process involves cooking the agave plant’s heart, or “piña,” in an underground pit oven, which gives mezcal its distinctive smoky flavor. After cooking, the piñas are crushed, fermented, and distilled.


Mezcal has a long history in Mexico, dating back to pre-Columbian times. The indigenous people of Mexico believed that the agave plant was a gift from the gods, and they used it for food, drink, and medicine. Mezcal was first produced by the Aztecs, who called it “octli,” and it was later refined by the Spanish, who introduced European distillation techniques to Mexico in the 16th century.

Today, mezcal production is still centered in Mexico, with the majority of mezcal coming from the state of Oaxaca. Mezcal production is regulated by the Mexican government, which sets standards for quality and authenticity. Mezcal producers, known as “mezcaleros,” are highly skilled artisans who use traditional methods to produce mezcal.

Production Process

The production process for mezcal is labor-intensive and time-consuming. After the agave plant’s leaves are removed, the piñas are cooked in underground pit ovens for several days. The cooked piñas are then crushed to extract the juice, which is fermented in wooden vats for several days. The fermented juice is then distilled in copper or clay stills, which gives mezcal its unique flavor.

The quality of mezcal depends on several factors, including the species of agave used, the production process, and the terroir, or the environmental factors that influence the flavor of the agave plant. Mezcal is often classified by the type of agave used, with some of the most popular varieties including Espadín, Tobalá, and Tepeztate.

How is Mezcal Made?

Mezcal is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from the agave plant.

The process of making mezcal is a labor-intensive and time-consuming process that requires patience and skill. Here is a brief overview of how mezcal is made.

Harvesting the Agave

The first step in making mezcal is harvesting the agave plant. The agave plant is a member of the succulent family and can take anywhere from 7 to 30 years to mature. When the plant is ready for harvest, the leaves are cut off, and the piña, or heart of the plant, is left behind. The piña can weigh anywhere from 50 to 200 pounds, depending on the size of the plant.

Roasting the Piñas

Once the piñas are harvested, they are roasted to extract the sugars that will be fermented and then distilled. Traditionally, the piñas are roasted in underground ovens lined with lava rocks that are filled with wood and charcoal. The piñas are then covered with dirt and left to roast for several days. This process gives mezcal its signature smoky flavor.

Milling and Fermenting

After the piñas are roasted, they are crushed to extract the juice. This can be done using a stone wheel, or tahona, pulled by a horse or mule, or a mechanical mill. The juice is then placed in large wooden vats and left to ferment for several days. During the fermentation process, yeast converts the sugars in the juice into alcohol.


The final step in making mezcal is distillation. The fermented juice is placed in copper pots or clay pots and heated over an open flame.

The alcohol vaporizes and is then condensed back into a liquid. This process is usually done twice to increase the alcohol content and remove any impurities. The resulting mezcal is then bottled and ready to be enjoyed.

Overall, the process of making mezcal is a complex and time-consuming process that requires a lot of skill and patience. The mezcalero, or mezcal maker, is responsible for overseeing every step of the process to ensure that the mezcal is of the highest quality.

Types of Mezcal

Mezcal is a diverse and complex spirit that can be made from up to 50 different species of agave.

There are four main types of mezcal: Joven, Reposado, Añejo, and Blanco. Each type has its own unique characteristics, flavor profile, and aging process.


Joven, also known as “young” mezcal, is bottled immediately after distillation, without any aging process. Joven mezcal has a clear color and a strong, smoky flavor. It is often described as having a fruity, savory, or floral taste, depending on the type of agave used in the production process.


Reposado mezcal is aged in wooden barrels for a minimum of two months and a maximum of nine months. The aging process gives the mezcal a golden color and a smoother taste, with less of the smoky flavor found in joven mezcal. Reposado mezcal can have notes of vanilla, caramel, and wood, depending on the type of barrel used for aging.


Añejo mezcal is aged for a minimum of one year, but usually for two to three years, in oak barrels. The aging process gives the mezcal a darker color and a smoother taste than joven and reposado mezcal. Añejo mezcal has a complex flavor profile, with notes of chocolate, coffee, and spices, along with a smoky flavor.


Blanco mezcal is unaged and bottled immediately after distillation. It has a clear color and a strong, smoky flavor, with a more pronounced taste of the agave plant. Blanco mezcal is often used in cocktails, as its strong flavor can be overpowering when consumed neat.

In summary, the type of mezcal you choose will depend on your personal taste preferences. Joven mezcal is ideal for those who enjoy a strong, smoky flavor, while reposado and añejo mezcal are better for those who prefer a smoother taste. Blanco mezcal is perfect for mixing into cocktails or enjoying neatness for a more intense flavor experience.

Please drink responsibly, be fully accountable with your alcohol consumption, and show others respect.

Written by Rocco

Rocco is a Florida State University alumnus with years of bartending and hospitality experience. From slinging hundreds of vodka sodas a night in jam-packed college bars to serving carefully crafted cocktails in upscale restaurants, there’s not much he hasn’t done behind a bar. Now, Rocco shares his knowledge and passion for all things alcohol-related here on My Bartender for bibulous readers everywhere to enjoy.

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