Mezcal vs Tequila: What’s the Difference

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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The debate of mezcal vs tequila has been fought in bars across the world for a very long time, but knowing the difference is important!

Mezcal vs Tequila

Although both are made from the agave plant, mezcal, and tequila are distinct Mexican spirits with different production methods and flavors. 

What are Mezcal and Tequila?

According to William H., Berkley, tequila is a spirit that can only be made from blue agave, whereas Mezcal is a spirit made from over 30 different types of the plant.

Origin

  • Mezcal: Mezcal can only be made in designated provinces of Mexico, but over 90% comes from the state of Oaxaca.
  • Tequila: Tequila can only be made in the state of Jalisco, as well as some assigned municipalities of four other Mexican states.
Three glasses of cocktail on a floral placemat.

Try these colorful cocktails this time. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

How to Make?

The real difference between the mezcal vs tequila lies in their production. For both spirits, the agave plant is mashed to create a substance called ‘piña‘.

  • Mezcal: Mezcal, on the other hand, is begun by heating the piña in underground pits, usually lined with rock, to create a smoky oven.
  • Tequila: For tequila production, the piña is heated in large batches above the ground.

Alcohol Percentage

Tequila and Mezcal have the same ABV range, from 38% to 55%.

Taste

  • Mezcal: Mezcal has a greater range of specialty flavors, as it is made in smaller batches. The type of agave plant used to make it varies. The slow, underground cooking often infuses the spirit with an earthen, smoky flavor that is considered characteristic of the beverage.
  • Tequila: Tequila has a pure flavor, softer than whiskey or gin, and often delivers a melon-like after-tone. There is less variation in taste between distilleries and brands of tequila than there is with Mezcal.

Types

  • Tequila: Based on the amount of aging that tequila undergoes, it can be divided into five clear distinctions, from least to most aging: Silver (Blanco), Gold (Oro), Reposado, Añejo, and Extra Añejo.
  • Mezcal: Depending on the type of agave used and the amount of time spent aging, the five main types of mezcal include Espadin, Tobala, Tobaziche, Tepeztate, and Arroqueño.

How to Drink?

  • Mezcal: Mezcal is an artisanal drink to be savored straight, perhaps with a side of ground-fried larvae or ground chili peppers, or a slice of lemon or lime for the more traditional.
  • Tequila: Really good tequila should also be savored. However, tequila shots are a common and fun drinking method. Shots are preluded with a lick of salt and followed with a slice of lemon or lime.

Which is Better?

  • Mezcal: The more specialized of the two and with a price tag to match, mezcal is considered the higher quality of the pair, and once you taste it, it’s hard to go back!
  • Tequila: Easier to find and cheaper to buy, tequila is the drink for your cocktail or casual parties, but its quality tops off at a certain level.
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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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