Mezcal

Ro-House » Oaxaca »Mezcal

The name mezcal has its roots in one of the ancient native languages of the area and translates as 'agave (also known as maguey) cooked'. Although pre-Hispanic Oaxaqueños used maguey to make pulque (an undistilled alcoholic beverage), it seems that the real advances in mezcal production occurred when the Spanish arrived in Oaxaca; by bringing with them their knowledge of distillation processes.

Mezcal is a rich, handcrafted flavored drink that requires considerable attention to be produced. Mezcal production today remains more or less as it was when the Spanish arrived hundreds of years ago. Each 'recipe' is transmitted from generation to generation within the families that care about its production; Because each family has its own approach to mezcal production, there are an enormous number of different flavors. It is also in this way that the rich diversity of flavors and traditions are preserved for all to enjoy.
Mezcal is normally served with white salt or worm salt (salt mixed with a cooked larva and ground chili), lemon or orange.

There are different types of maguey, and each produces a different version of mezcal; one of the best known, although it does not correspond exactly to the traditional definition of mezcal, is tequila. Simply put, tequila is actually a type of mezcal. The production of mezcal is regulated by the Official Mexican Standard NOM-070-SCFI-1994.

History

In excavations started in 1994 by anthropologists from the National Autonomous University of Mexico in the town of Oaxaca, evidence was obtained to determine that mezcal was formerly obtained from the maguey plant (generally known for its use for making pulque).

In order to broaden their research, university scientists developed, in 1998, the project The mezcal route, through which they toured indigenous communities to identify the places where mezcal is produced in the traditional way; they realized that it was still distilled in clay pots, and that they were dated around 400 BC. c.

Currently, mezcal has a Denomination of Origin, which protects the production of this drink in the states of Oaxaca, Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Michoacán, San Luis Potosí, Puebla, Tamaulipas and Zacatecas. In 2018, the incorporation of the state of Aguascalientes, Morelos and the State of Mexico was published in the Official Gazette of the Federation. The states mentioned are the only regions in the world today that have the designation of origin called Mezcal.

Another approach refers that it is a drink that emerged during the colony, with the arrival of the stills. A curious fact is that many of the artisanal mezcals are distilled in what is known as the "Filipino alembic". These stills came on Philippine ships, and coconut and palm beverages were distilled. These Philippine ships reached the western coast of Mexico and spread their use. However, when entering the geography, the coconut and palm were replaced by agave mead, and from there the mezcal was obtained.

Types of Mezcales

It is possible to find a great variety of mezcals according to the type of distillation, according to the variety of agave or according to the fruits or herbs that are added; among them, worm, breast, white, miner, lemon verbena, scorpion, coffee cream and others.

When the plant reaches maturity (six to eight years), it is harvested and the leaves are cut, leaving only the heart or pineapple (it is so called because its shape is very similar to a pineapple), which is cooked and then it is ground. Not all maguey species are acceptable: NOM 070 stipulates that they must be used exclusively: Agave angustifolia (maguey sprat), Agave sperrima (maguey de cerro or maguey gross or maguey cenizo), Agave weberi (mezcal maguey), Agave potatorum (mezcal maguey) and Salmiana Agave. NOM 070 recognizes more than 20 varieties of agave to produce mezcal. Each variety generates a mezcal with a different flavor.

Mezcals are classified as ancestral, which are those that their elaboration meets certain requirements such as grinding with a mallet or taona and distillation in clay pots and the artisan class, which can be ground with brush cutters and their distillation is in copper stills.

Types of Agave

Mezcal, like wine, is part of a plant (Agave in mezcal, Vitis vinífera in wine) but they have several types of it, mezcal can be made with approximately 14 different types of agave, there are wild agaves that, like us Their name suggests these are agaves that are found in wild environments and not in fields like other agaves that have already been "domesticated". An example of these is the "Espadín" from Oaxaca, these types of mezcal are higher in prices because The producer uses more raw material to obtain the final product, therefore it is a unique product in quality, in addition, the taste is very different from a reposado or aged mezcal, these mezcals do not go through the barrel due to the high cost of production and because There is no point in assembling the complex flavors that they already entail. Sometimes they mix more than one type of agave in a bottle. These are called "assembly" since it is the set of two or more types of mezcal in a bot she.

Types of wild agave:

Tobalá: Small wild agave with a thick leaf, also called «Papalometl», these agaves give a mild mezcal in attack and easy to taste, excellent for people who are entering the world of mezcal, they can be found mainly in the Mixteca and in some places in Puebla.

Cuishe: Elongated and thin-leaf wild agave, these agaves once cleaned to be baked are elongated in shape very similar to the trunk of a tree, they give a mezcal with a strong flavor and incredible aromas where its aroma of maguey and honey water persists. These mezcals have complex flavors but excellent aftertastes where we can obtain different flavors depending on whether it was the first type (madrecuixe, bicuixe). They abound mainly in Oaxaca.

Coyote: Small agave with black spines and thick reddish leaves, this type of agaves gives a unique mezcal in flavor and aroma, with a strong flavor and lasting intensity, excellent for people who are in love with mezcal to include in their personal cellar. We can find them in the Mixteca, in Michoacán and Puebla

Tepezate: Small elongated leaf agave, these agaves give a mezcal with a strong flavor and long-lasting aroma, where the alcoholic and intense flavors of the maguey abound, excellent mezcal to taste, we can find it mainly in Oaxaca

Kite: Small thick leaf agave, it may have other names depending on the region, also called "Cupreata" these agaves are slightly sweeter and softer compared to others, they give a mixture of rich and light flavors where the sweetness of the agave is abundant. find them in Puebla and Mixtec areas

Ashen: Small thick leaf agave, from this type of agaves we obtain a mezcal rich in aroma and strong flavors, this type is found in the areas of Durango and Zacatecas, it can even be used to make Pulque

Stocking: Agave chico with elongated leaf, we obtain a mezcal with strong flavors and long-lasting aromas, a balanced mezcal but with an intensity marked mainly by sweet flavors due to its large amounts of sugars, we can find it mostly in Tamaulipas.

Mexican: Elongated and large agave, we obtain a balanced mezcal in aromas and strong flavors, this agave is mainly found on the top of the mountains and due to its beauty it bears the name "Mexican" it can be found in the Mixteca but mainly in Oaxaca.

Difference between mezcal and tequila

A variety of mezcal is tequila, a drink that gets its name from the town where it is produced (Tequila (Jalisco)) and whose process has been fully industrialized, a situation that generates the great difference between tequila and artisanal mezcal. Unlike mezcal, tequila can only be made from agave Tequilana Weber, blue variety, while mezcal can be used as raw material, all species of agave found within the area with designation of origin mezcal.

Birthplace

  • Mezcal in Oaxaca (southern Mexico)

In Mexico, different liquors are produced and consumed that make the residents proud and give identity to the regions, and in Oaxaca it is mezcal. Like tequila, mezcal comes from a variety of agave, and its process is completely artisanal. In the vicinity of Oaxaca it is possible to visit factories that guarantee to have a very personal touch in each variety of their drinks. The espadín, arroquense and tobalá agaves are three of the species that, fermented and distilled, produce as many varieties of mezcal. Sprat and arroquense are products of the crop, while tobalá is a wild agave that is the most common in the production of mezcal. Unlike tequila, which is only made with blue agave, mezcal varieties are made with a mix of different agave families. The peasants wait patiently for the stalk to grow, as it will take about seven years for the plant to mature.

The process begins when the farmer separates the pineapple from the stems, leaves and roots that surround it. Once the pineapples are obtained, they are cooked and then ground. The resulting bagasse is left to settle in large, fragrant vats. Already here, the process requires calm and patience to wait for the bagasse to ferment; at this point, the liquid passes into the stills.

This is the moment in which the artisan develops his particular way of endowing the future mezcal with its characteristic flavor. In the preparation of the authentic tobalá mezcal, it is essential that the process takes place in clay pots. Finally, it should be noted that there are different varieties or types of Oaxacan mezcal: reposado, añejo, minero, breast and little worm.

Elaboration process

The production of mezcal is artisanal and therefore varies from region to region. However, a more or less homogeneous process is determined that follows the following stages:

  1. Cultivation and harvest. The process begins with the cultivation of the maguey. The sowing takes place in the most diverse lands, and its cultivation is within what is now known as organic agriculture, since no artificial products are used in it. The agave takes between 8 and 10 years to be "at its peak."
  2. Selection of the most suitable raw material. For generations, mezcal agaves have been selected from wild plants and have been improved. The grower has to verify its good condition so that they cut it.
  3. Cut the pineapples. Later, the leaves and roots are cut until the center of the maguey is exposed, this form of the maguey is commonly known as "pineapple".
  4. Tscraped to the palenque. The transfer of the pineapples to the palenques or mezcal factories is done in carts pulled by oxen or cargo trucks, depending on the amount and type of land where the collection has been made. The palenques are generally located near the plantations where they find the necessary resources to process the pineapples such as firewood and water. It should be ensured that they are roofed and that they have a cement floor.
  1. Cooking. Then comes the cooking of the pineapples. Before putting them in the deck oven, the pineapples are chopped with an ax to make cooking easier. The oven can be of two types and varies depending on its use. Generally we see them covered with refractory stone, they are located in places where mezcal is produced in large quantities, they are mainly found in the municipalities of Tlacolula, Yautepec and Ejutla. The oven has had to be preheated until the stones present a red-hot color, then the pineapples are placed, covered with bagasse and then with earth. Baking takes approximately three days to achieve full cooking. At the end of this phase, the agave changes from white to caramel, which is an indication of a good cooking, since it has been possible "that the carbohydrates or starches contained in the pineapples are transformed into sugars".
  2. Grinding. It is generally carried out in an Egyptian mill, consisting of a cement well with a central post and a stone wheel that turns by the traction of a beast of burden controlled by a person. The cooked agave is also crumbled and crushed to obtain the musts that will be used for fermentation.
  3. Fermentation. The musts are transported to oak or oak wood vats that can hold up to two thousand liters. The fermentation process has two fundamental elements: water and temperature. The time it takes to ferment will depend on the latter; that goes from three to five days. Natural fermentation allows microorganisms to act freely and break down carbohydrates to convert them into ethyl alcohol. You can help the process without altering it, alternately pouring hot and cold water to support the microorganisms. However, it has been observed that some mezcaleros use ammonium sulfate to shorten fermentation times to increase their production. This form of fermentation is called accelerated, but "mezcaleros say that the taste of mezcal changes if any substance is added to accelerate fermentation."
  4. Distillation. At the end of the fermentation process, the cooked musts called "tepache" are passed to the alembics to carry out the distillation. This is done with bagasse and with equipment made of copper, clay pots, reed or quiote; depending on the region, customs or productive capacity. The mixture is heated in the alembic, evaporates and slowly condenses through a coil that deposits its contents in a container.
  1. Packing. It is the last phase of the process, for this the mezcaleros standardize the product through various methods such as homogenization and stabilization of the mezcal. First there is the adjustment of the alcoholic degree, which according to the NOM of mezcal should be between 36 and 55% alcohol over volume. This is done according to each producer. Some mezcaleros use a reed pipette and a small container where they pour the mezcal, they observe the formation of bubbles that is made and depending on the size of these “pearls” it is determined whether the mezcal is of good quality or not. Other modern means for the homogenization of the product is through laboratory tests that allow the distillate to be given the same graduation through various methods of dilution, filtration and aging. Thus, "a pure, persistent, bright and full-bodied young drink" can be obtained, ready to be packaged according to the producers' brands. Packing plants have diverse characteristics, from manual to semi-automatic packaging. These help to carry out an adequate quality control of the mezcal; However, there is also bulk mezcal, which is more for local consumption, or also small producers that do not have registered trademarks and pack their mezcal in glass or black clay containers completely by hand.
Separador

Agave species (maguey)

  • Mezcal is from Agave vivipara Haw variety, and has more sugars and is larger. In Zacatecas, both blue agave (region of the canyons of Juchipila, Jalpa, etc.) and Salmiana Agave (southeast region, Pinos and Villa Hidalgo).
  • For tequila, only agave is used Tequilana Weber, blue variety.
Separador

Flavor

  • Mezcal has a strong aromatic flavor of sweet, earthy and smoky citrus notes.
  • Tequila too, but with a tendency to be neutral.
Separador

More Tourist Attractions in Oaxaca

Monte Alban

Monte Albán is the most important archaeological zone of the Oaxacan entity, of unique regional importance due to the religious, political and economic control that the Zapotec state exercised over the population of the Valley of Oaxaca for more than thirteen centuries. It has been named by UNESCO as Cultural Heritage of Humanity along with the city of Oaxaca on December 11, 1987. The heritage of the Zapotec world reaches us through the magnificent archaeological sites designed in the Valley of Oaxaca. Of these, the city of Monte Albán stands out for its enormous importance as an economic, political and religious hub (it was the first urban complex in Mesoamerica); by its extension, almost as big as the current capital of Oaxaca; and for its long life, started around 500 BC and concluded around 850 AD

Oaxaca City

Oaxaca City, the state capital, is famous for its architecture and rich cultural traditions. Oaxaca also has a splendid and varied cuisine and a spring climate throughout the year. UNESCO declared the city a Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Oaxaca is the most diverse state in Mexico. It has peaks that reach more than 3,000 meters in height, caverns that are among the deepest in the world, pristine beaches, secluded forests and sunny valleys. Oaxaca is rich in traditions and customs and has the largest ethnic population in Mexico.

Tradiciones de Oaxaca

Traditions of Oaxaca

In the state of Oaxaca there are many customs and traditions throughout the year, and within the state, said that they have the same purpose of celebration but with different things, in fact from one region to another or even more from one town to another, the Customs vary for perhaps details but that is what makes them authentic. Oaxaca has deep-rooted customs and traditions. All the holidays are celebrated, the profane and the religious ones. The festival calendar is extensive due to the diversity of ethnic groups, which they still conserve.

Sitios Arqueológicos en Oaxaca

Archaeological Sites in Oaxaca

Oaxaca is famous throughout the world for its archaeological sites and the history they keep. Discover Monte Alban, Mitla, Yagul and more of these remote sites, which have made Oaxaca a World Heritage city, according to Unesco. The original Zapotec and Mixtec peoples of Oaxaca lived in the cities and religious centers of the valley of this city until the time of Spanish colonization. Today, there are still vestiges of these towns and places where you can meet them.

Pueblos Mágicos de Oaxaca

Magical Towns of Oaxaca

In Oaxaca we are proud to have 5 communities that have been awarded the title of Magic Towns of Mexico, a Magic Town is a town that has symbolic attributes, legends, history, transcendent events, everyday life, in short magic that they emanate in each of their socio-cultural manifestations, and that today mean a great opportunity for tourist use. The Magical Towns Program contributes to revalue a group of populations in the country that have always been in the collective imagination of the nation as a whole and that represent fresh and different alternatives for national and foreign visitors.

Gastronomy of Oaxaca

Oaxaca's culinary tradition is extraordinary and deeply rooted. There are fourteen different ethnic groups, with their own dishes. It is an area of incomparable wealth for the tourist interested in gastronomy, ethnology and culture in general. Oaxaca is the land of mezcal, tlayudas and the famous seven moles. You have to dedicate several days to it. Oaxacan gastronomy is one of the cultural manifestations that identify and define its people, due to its variety, richness and complexity that have been preserved through the centuries. The best way to enjoy Oaxacan food is by tasting it, from the “strong” dishes that are used to enjoying at lunchtime; like the traditional Oaxacan snacks that can be enjoyed at any time of the day.

Artesanías en Oaxaca

Oaxaca handicrafts

Crafts in Oaxaca are so varied and of such good quality that they have become a tourist attraction. The ancestral traditions, the diversity in the ethnic groups, as well as the richness in the history of the state have been manifested in the great diversity of creations of more than half a million artisans that are registered in Oaxaca. In the center of the state is the City of Oaxaca, a fascinating and hospitable capital in whose surroundings various towns are located, each with its own personality and craft tradition, accompanied by their respective customs, festivals and dishes.

Ecoturismo en Oaxaca

Ecotourism and Adventure in Oaxaca

An ideal space for Alternative Tourism, Oaxaca offers activities such as walking, mountain biking, rappelling, climbing, zip-lining, horseback riding, observation of flora and fauna and more, in close contact with nature. The visitor can also witness the various aspects of local life, savor the gastronomy and enjoy the warmth of its people, as well as an offer of accommodation in hotels, ecotourism cabins, local houses or excellent camping areas. In its varied geography, it brings together not only a vast biodiversity, considered among the largest in the world, but also insurmountable cultural and ethnic riches, and the most different and beautiful natural settings.

Las Playas de Oaxaca

The Beaches of Oaxaca

The beaches of the coast of the state of Oaxaca are among the most beautiful and complete in Mexico, thanks to a developing tourist infrastructure and the rich gastronomy of the Pacific. Along the 533 kilometers of coastline, the beaches of Oaxaca offer a wide variety of activities for lovers of water sports: snorkeling, diving, sport fishing, surfing, among others ... there is something for everyone!
Places such as Puerto Escondido, Mazunte, Zipolite, Carrizalillo, Puerto Ángel or the beaches of Huatulco will offer you the possibility of contemplating beautiful sunsets, delighting in intense adventure tourism or witnessing the exciting release of newborn turtles.

The Guelaguetza

The Guelaguetza is an ancient tradition with pre-Hispanic roots related to agricultural ceremonies of gratitude to the gods for the arrival of the rains and the lifting of the harvest at the end of July and is the largest festival in Oaxaca. La Guelaguetza is a celebration of gratitude for the arrival of the rains and the harvests, in which representatives from all regions of the state gather in the capital to share their culture through dances, crafts and food.

Restaurantes Cover

The Best Restaurants in Oaxaca

The vast Oaxacan cuisine is distinguished by its tradition and the use of regional ingredients. Not for nothing has it positioned itself as the Best Tourist City in the World and the Best Gourmet Destination. In the presentation of the 2021 edition of The Mexico Gastronomic Guide "The Great Restaurants of Mexico" 278 restaurants located throughout the Mexican Republic were recognized, on this occasion, there were 16 Oaxacan restaurants that were placed in the list .

Hierve el Agua

Surroundings of Oaxaca City

The City of Oaxaca is a destination that offers a great variety of tourist attractions and charms that leave anyone surprised. However, there are other places that are also worth knowing and are in the surroundings of the city, in whose surroundings various populations are located, each with its own personality and artisan tradition, accompanied by their respective customs, festivals and dishes. .

Santo Domingo Cultural Center

The Santo Domingo Cultural Center is a cultural complex that is located in what was one of the most important convents in the colony. It is a large convent in which the Museum of the Cultures of Oaxaca, the Fray Francisco de Burgoa Library and the Ethnobotanical Garden have been established. The Néstor Sánchez Public Newspaper Library is located in a building that is part of the complex but dates from the 19th century. Apart from all these institutions brought together, the Santo Domingo Cultural Center has multipurpose spaces in the former convent, in which temporary exhibitions, conferences, courses, book presentations and concerts are held, among many other activities.

Separador

Guided Tours in Oaxaca

Separador

Find Flights to Oaxaca

To learn more about Mexico:

visit-mexico.mx

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *