Tequila used to considered a drink for bikers and wild people, then it became very popular, Margaritas became one of the most popular cocktails and many celebrities even had thier own Tequila Brands – George Clooney to name one, his brand is called CasaAmigos (translation House of Friends)
However Mezcal was still the bad boy of the Agave family, with a worm in the bottle it was definitely not for the weak of heart or ever going to be a girls drink. As well it was not sold legally so you had to get it from someone who had a connection.
Now Mezcal is legally sold in Liquor stores and is becoming more popular. There is a Mezcal Bar (comments in Yelp) in Puerto Vallarta –Bar M, located on Morelos Street just steps off the iconic Malecon. They have Mezcal tasting and a range of flavors .
If you do a Google search on Mezcal you will be surprised to find over 5000 hits.
I found a great site about a trendy restaurant /Bar in New York called Casa Mescal that tells the Legend of how Mezcal came to exist, the legend states that a huge Agave plant was struck by lightning and the powerful electric strike burst open the Agave plant and burned its core, when it was cracked open with a machete the magical elixir began to flow and Mezcal, the Elixer of the Gods was born.
Mezcal is one of Mexico’s most beloved spirits, and has been around for more than 200 years. It has recently been rediscovered in its home country and around the world, and is quickly becoming a popular drink, yet not everybody knows the story of where it comes from, how it’s made, and why all of a sudden it’s everywhere.
In the Lower East Side restaurant Casa Mezcal, the retro-inspired shelves and cabinets of the bar are stocked with bottles of Mezcal, the Mexican spirit that gives the restaurant its name. An illuminated sign behind the bartender reads “Mezcaleria.” A few years back, the sign might have been a mystery to many, seeming perhaps only like a prop to make the bar feel kitschy and cool. But today, it’s literally a sign of the times.
Mezcal has been enjoyed for more than two centuries, but only in recent years has it experienced a revival with enthusiasts from mixologists to chefs to young people curious to try the latest drink. Its smoky flavor and the mystic properties that some believe it offers have helped the spirit gain popularity in Mexico and abroad.
According to legend, the birth of Mezcal happened centuries ago, when a plant of agave was struck by lightning. The electricity burned the plant’s core, and when it was cracked open, the so-called “elixir of the gods” began to flow. Some long-standing beliefs,
especially among Mexico’s rural population, are that Mezcal is good for calming nerves, improving digestion and even helping pregnant women prepare to give birth. Some even think that Mezcal contains mescaline, a hallucinogenic that is found in peyote. The mescaline bit is not true, and the other two claims are not easy to verify, yet there is a general aura of mysticism that surrounds the spirit.
Not surprisingly, one of the drink’s most enthusiastic advocates is Jaime Muñoz-Castillo, director of Destileria Los Danzantes in Oaxaca, one of Mexico’s main mezcal-producing states. “Mezcal is a mystical, magical and extraordinary drink — when it’s drunk in reasonable quantities,” he claims. Los Danzantes distillery produces one of the most respected brands of mezcal in Mexico and has been benefitted by the spirit’s growing popularity.
The phenomenon can be traced back to 2004, when a group of producers and bottlers began an active campaign to market the spirit. “We started to inform consumers and people in the industry about mezcal, and in it, they found a flavor and an effect they had never encountered before,” says Juan Carlos Méndez, commercial manager of Mezcal El Cortijo. They also promoted “everything that is behind each bottle: work, family, art and tradition,” says Méndez, who explains that once people tried mezcal, they went on to recommend it, and word started spreading.
Those who spotted a business opportunity early on began reaching out to mezcal producers in rural areas in states like Oaxaca and Guerrero. At first, producing families were wary and did not want to give out information. In fact, most of them did not even speak Spanish and knew only the indigenous dialects of their regions. But mezcal entrepreneurs found their way and before long, mezcal became the drink of choice among young hipsters in Mexico who appreciated its novelty and originality.
Mezcal started appearing on more menus at restaurants and bars in its home country, and soon enough, the trend moved abroad, reaching the United States, England, Spain, Germany and even Russia and Japan. A 2011 New York Times article titled “Move Over Tequila, It’s Mezcal’s Turn to Shine” reports that exports of mezcal went up 54 percent from 2010 to 2011, and that the number of brands of mezcal has risen from 28 to 78 since 2007.
The marketing worked better than expected. “Now, we have changed the whole administration process because demand for mezcal has grown so much that it exceeds our production,” says Muñoz-Castillo. As the drink becomes more popular, producers and distributors are taking on the challenge of increasing the volume of production while respecting the process, which has remained practically unchanged in the past two centuries.
Historically, mezcal has been handcrafted in rural villages in production houses called palenques, which are usually run by families that have inherited the knowledge from previous generations. Like tequila, mezcal is made from a plant called agave, but each liquor has a different production process. To make mezcal, the long, pointy leaves of the agave are removed, and the core that is left is called the piña, or pineapple. The pineapples are cooked in a pit oven that is built into the ground over hot rocks, which gives mezcal its unique, smoky flavor.
After cooking, the pineapples are crushed by a stone wheel that is pulled by a horse or donkey. Then, they are put into barrels with water and left to ferment. Some mezcals are fermented with sugar, cinnamon, pineapples or even chicken breasts to add flavor. Afterwards, the liquid is distilled and then left to age in barrels for a period that can last from a month to up to twelve years.
Mezcals can be classified into different categories depending on the aging period and the type of agave from which they have been made. These factors also influence the liquor’s color, flavor and alcohol level. Certain mezcals can have an alcohol level of up to 55 percent, and some people believe that the strongest mezcals can only be drunk under the guidance of a maestro mezcalero (mezcal master), otherwise they can go blind.
Perhaps that myth goes too far, but some guidance can’t hurt for those who are trying mezcal for the first time, since its smokiness can be an acquired taste. “Mezcal is like Woody Allen: either you love it or you hate it,” says Roberto Silva, bar manager at Casa Mezcal. “Some people say that it tastes like bacon, but others are fascinated by it.” In the two years that Casa Mezcal has been open, Silva and the bar team have made it their mission to educate customers about mezcal, The restaurant’s founders also own the mezcal brand Los Amantes, so they take the matter seriously.
Some customers come to Casa Mezcal looking for tequila, and the staff guides them into discovering this new spirit, suggesting lighter mezcals or mezcal-based cocktails like margaritas. They have a very important rule, too: no shots. Mezcal is meant to be savored slowly, sip by sip. “If you drink it at a good pace, you don’t wake up with a hangover,” says Silva.
The relationship with mezcal develops like any other — it’s only a matter of time before the shock of the first impression fades and trust is built. “The first time I tried it, I thought it was like tequila on steroids,” says Philip Ward, owner of Mayahuel, a Mexican restaurant in the East Village which was named after the goddess of agave. “Now I think it’s the most delicious stuff on Earth.” His restaurant offers about 20 beverages made with mezcal.
Ward, who has been in the food and drink business for 15 years, has watched mezcal take over the bar scene in the past five years. “Right now, any bar who makes decent drinks or cares about spirits has at least one bottle of mezcal,” he says. Ward believes that the long life span of agave has a definitive influence in the spirit’s personality. Unlike beverages that are made from potatoes, wheat or corn, mezcal is made from plants that can live for as long as thirty years, so “the spirit arguably is more alive because the plant has lived longer,” he theorizes.
The lively spirit is the weapon of choice for those who are looking to warm up on a cold Thursday night inside the lowly-lit bar at Casa Mezcal. “Every mezcal is different, just like wine,” says Celeste Casillas, who likes to try all kinds and experiment. Tonight, Casillas and her friend Natalia Carrasco are enjoying a spicy mezcal-based cocktail called Llano en Llamas. “I used to be a vodka person,” says Carrasco, but ever since she tried mezcal four years ago, she switched and never went back. Her drink of choice is now “elixir of the gods”. And that’s something
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