A taste of mez­cal, tequila’s classy ar­ti­san cousin

The Guardian - Feast - - Feast -

Have you been put off mez­cal for life af­ter see­ing a worm at the bot­tom of the bot­tle? Yup, me, too (and, be­ing a drinks writer, I’m slightly ashamed to ad­mit that). Mind you, there hasn’t been a great deal of it about – un­til re­cently, that is, when all of a sud­den mez­cal seems to be pop­ping up just about ev­ery­where. Well, not in your lo­cal cor­ner shop or su­per­mar­ket, maybe, but in a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of bars – and not just the Mex­i­can ones, ei­ther.

Mez­cal is made from agave, as is tequila, but gen­er­ally not from blue agave, and it comes from the Oax­aca re­gion of the coun­try, rather than Jalisco. It’s much less com­mer­cial than tequila, and made mainly by small ar­ti­sanal mi­cro-dis­til­leries, with prices to match; though at least they tend to forgo the worms, which are mainly a com­mer­cial gim­mick.

It tends to be strong, too – mez­cals of around 48%-50% abv are not un­com­mon – and is de­signed for sip­ping (tra­di­tion­ally at room tem­per­a­ture) rather than slam­ming. It also works well in a range of cock­tails for which you would nor­mally use tequila – most ob­vi­ously mar­gar­i­tas.

The taste varies de­pend­ing on the type of agave used (the most com­mon is es­padin) and where it is grown. It has a sim­i­lar herby veg­e­tal flavour to tequila and is most of­ten oily and smoky. The pines – the heart of the agave plant – are roasted in firepits, then fer­mented, which gives mez­cal more flavour than its bet­ter known coun­ter­part. If you can’t imag­ine what that tastes like, think of it as the love child of ouzo and Is­lay whisky.

Not con­vinced you’ll like it? Well, if you live in or around Lon­don, there’s a fes­ti­val in Shored­itch next week­end as part of Lon­don’s sec­ond Mez­cal Week, which in­cludes din­ners and tast­ings.

If you can’t get to that, and given the ex­pense and the un­fa­mil­iar flavour, I’d ex­plore it in sin­gle-shot sam­ples, which you may or may not take to – it’s a bit like the spirit world’s equiv­a­lent of nat­u­ral wine.

If you’re al­ready into mez­cal, on the other hand, The Whisky Ex­change has a box of six rare sin­gle-vil­lage bot­tlings to en­able you to com­pare dif­fer­ent ter­roirs at a rea­son­ably af­ford­able £42.95.

Does mez­cal jus­tify the cur­rent hype? It de­pends how ded­i­cated you are to ex­plor­ing the world of drinks – there are cheaper op­tions out there, cer­tainly, but they’re noth­ing quite like it. Mez­cal may be an ac­quired taste, sure, but it’s one that, af­ter years of worm avoid­ance, I’ve fi­nally ac­quired.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.