How Does Tequila Differ From Mezcal?

Aren’t both produced from the distillation of femented agave juice? Is there a quality difference?
I have had both (mostly in margueritas)-they seem very much similar.

Awesome article.

“Quality” the way I think you mean it is subjective. There are mezcales that are better than some tequilas. There are some mezcales that taste like tequila. All tequilas are mezcales.

Not sure I get the “quality” thing.

Basically tequila = blue agave, Mezcal can be one of 5 kinds of agave. Tequila is typically considered a Mezcal, but not all mezcal is tequila. 10 is always even, but even numbers are not always 10. Not complicated to me.

There are a few small details in the article that aren’t really accurate. As already stated, tequila is a type of mezcal that is produced with one particular type of agave, the weber blue, and it can only be produced within certain geographical confines, denominacion de origin, in the states of Jalisco, Nayarit, Tamaulipas, Guanajuato y Michoacán.

There are all kinds of regional mezcals and they are made from many different types of agave. The government regulatory standards recognize 20 different types of agave that can be used for commercially produced mezcal. But the real small producers or homemade distillates are made from nearly 100 different types of agave.

Again, it depends on what “quality” means to you. Is “champagne” higher quality than California sparkling wines?

Okay, in the case of mezcales, tequila must be made with the Weber blue agave, which is a type of maguey. But is a common maguey any less quality than the Weber? Is a Mcintosh apple less quality than a Granny Smith? It depends on the characteristics that you want.

I’ve had some mezcales from Michoacan (they can’t make tequila there) that are better than many Jalisco tequilas. I’ve had a lot of bacanoras (a specific type of mezcal) from Sonora that are also better than many tequilas. My favorite “mezcal” happens to be a tequila, but that quality reflects my own particular tastes.

Now if you define “quality” as “consistency” (that’s how McDonald’s defines it), then that rests entirely upon the distillery, regardless of the type of mezcal or tequila. Unlike wines where every vintage has its separate characteristics, the “quality” (in this sense) of a tequila or mezcal should be invariable from year to year. Some distilleries are very good at managing this, and some aren’t. There’s a lot to deal with. I make beer (call it pre-distilled whiskey if you like), and because of my scale and talent, even if I follow the same recipe, there are variations from batch to batch. Even though subjectively what I make is awesome quality, from the objective standpoint, I lack consistency and therefore am unable to offer real quality.

Interesting what Balthisar says. It looks as if agave (do to demand for Tequila) has become what wine is to California. Natural agave isn’t going to satisfy the demand so it has to be grown on a large scale on plantations with controlled conditions to insure quality.

Here’s a picture. Not much different from the vineyards in California (and other places).

Sorry, I don’t know how to compress the URL. Help!

Fields of blue agave have been cultivated on a large scale for a very long time. Tequila is a huge industry, not some seat of the pants operation with people harvesting wild agave.

In fact the blue fields of agave are quite an attractive cultivation. The fields are registered with the Consejo Regulador del Tequila and the agave harvested is recorded in log books as it leaves the fields and is checked at the distillery on arrival.

During the early nineties a blight or pest of some sort had driven the price of agave (and tequila) sky high. Agave farmers were getting rich. It got so expensive that agave shipments was being highjacked.

Correction, Balthisar, tequila is made in Michoacán.

And with tequila, there’s no worm to eat.

Oops. Until I read your post above, I’d though it was only Jalisco and select portions of Guanajuato!

Lots of misconceptions in the thread, and some errors in the article.

Tequila is to mezcal as Champagne is to sparkling wine. The name is reserved and protected. Two distilleries can make identical products from identical ingredients, and one will be a tequila and one a mezcal just because of where they are located.

Most people experience only the nasty three-dollar-a-bottle mezcal you pick up in the border towns. It could peel paint. It’s not quite fair to compare that to a tequila like Patron Silver.

In a margarita, you’re not going to be able to tell the difference anyway, unless you have an exceptional palate. There’s as much difference between a cheap tequila like Cuervo Gold and a top-notch extra anejo as there is between ripple and a fine Chateauneuf-du-Pape (or Bud Light and Ola Dubh). But the margarita mix will mask the majority of the flavor.

To really taste the difference, try it straight up in a brandy snifter, served at about 60 degrees F.

Also, color of tequila is not indicative of quality, any more than color of beer is indicative of strength or “heaviness.”

When my wife and I went to Cancun for our honeymoon we took a bus to Chichen Itza and on the way we got a nice tour of the countryside. We passed a large field of Blue Agave, and were told by the tour guide that Blue Agave has been recently grown on the Yucatan Peninsula.

*I think this is what he claimed, it was awhile, but he acted like it was a new thing and it was a huge economic boon to the area.

I have lived in Jalisco all of my life and have tasted countless tequilas and mezcal. I will disagree on the taste difference between tequila or mezcal in a margarita. The flavors of all of the mezcal I have tasted and the flavor of tequila are different and distinct. To me they are as distinct as the flavor differences between scotch and bourbon.

That’s why I said, “In a margarita, you’re not going to be able to tell the difference anyway, unless you have an exceptional palate.” The average American margarita drinker is getting a drink that’s about 1/4 tequila and 3/4 sweet mix, probably with a partial shot of triple sec or grand marnier in it. That’s mixed with ice, blended to a froth, and served very cold in a glass with salt on the rim. The subtle tastes of the tequila/mezcal within are pretty well masked. I haven’t met a whole lot of people that can tell the difference between Jose Gold and Tres Generationes Reposado in a blended American margarita.

If you drink your margaritas like most of the ones I have had in non-tourist parts of Mexico, where it’s a fairly small amount of fresh lime juice mixed with the tequila/mezcal and served on the rocks, the differences are much more apparent.

I’d accept that challenge, except I’d feel like an idiot for wasting perfectly good Tres Generaciones in a margarita. Which kind of reinforces your point.

The best margarita:

1 shot Don Julio Blanco

3/4 shot Triple Sec

3/4 shot fresh squeezed lime juice

on the rocks.

The limes have to be fresh.

Personally, I’d prefer 1 shot Don Julio Anejo in a glass–perhaps with a thin slice of lime on the rim.

It’s all a matter of taste :slight_smile:

Well you brought up the margarita!

I have both Don Julio añejo and Herradura añejo sitting in my licqour cabinet. Just lose the lime and pour it over some ice.