Tequila vs. Mezcal: What are the Differences?

Too many people don’t understand tequila. Like wine with Italian food, it can be a great pairing drink to compliment a great meal. When dining in Salt Lake City, it’s important to learn what drinks go with your entree. 

So today, we’re going to teach you the differences between tequila vs. mezcal, so you can know which one is best while eating out.

All Tequila is Mezcal

We dare say that tequila IS the mezcal you are most familiar with. Much like bourbon is a type of whiskey, tequila is actually a specific type of mezcal. They are both spirits distilled from agave. While mezcal can be produced from a variety of agave, tequila has to be made from weber blue agave. 

There are more than 30 varietals of agave. Since mezcal can also be made with a blend, this makes for a ton of variety in flavor profiles. 

Like wine grapes, different agave imparts unique flavors to the spirits. They even have terroir, or flavors imparted from the region they were grown in.  This makes them a fun drink option to explore while dining in Salt Lake City. 

Mezcal is Made Differently 

Mezcal is generally thought of as smoky. While not all varieties are, this perception comes from its different distillation processes. While the process of making tequila means steaming the agave, mezcal is made by roasting it. The traditional method was to bake it in earthen pits. While industrial methods are often used over this traditional method, the best mezcal still uses a real fire pit. 

In addition to adding smoky flavors, the process of roasting can also bring out toasty caramel sweetness and richness. 

There are Several Mezcal Types

If you’re trying to learn about tequila vs. mescal, it’s important to keep a close eye on labels. The labels have three legal categories.

Ancestral mezcal is produced as it has been for centuries. This is where you will find your earthen pits. It is also distilled in clay pots. 

Artisinal mezcal is more mechanized but still made in smaller batches with some traditional touches. Industrial is made with all modern technology and probably in larger batches. 

Aged Mezcal

Like tequila and many other spirits, mezcal is aged in barrels to impart flavor. These aging times have special terms found on the label as well. Aging times vary from two months to three years, or even longer, and each type of mezcal has its own name.

Blanco or silver mezcal is not aged at all and bottled immediately after distillation.

Joven is distilled for less than two months. Reposado is rested for more than two months, but less than a year. Anejo is rested between one and three years. “Extra” Anejo is above three years. 

Aged mezcal has a robust flavor to stand up in any cocktails you want to make with it. 

The Difference Between Tequila Vs. Mezcal 

Hopefully, this gives you more of an appreciation and understanding of tequila vs. mezcal. Mezcal is a unique craft spirit that pairs perfectly with Mexican cuisine. Hopefully, this makes you want to try it the next time you’re getting drinks with dinner. If you’re interested in tequila and mezcal, we hope you’ll stop by for a meal. Our servers know all about mezcal and can suggest a perfect pairing for food.