A Beginner`s Guide to Mezcal, Tequila`s Divine Cousin

About a decade ago, a friend of mine had a year of magical drinking.

He’d been through a rough patch, moved home to Southern California, and taken up residency at a local tequila bar. Not really much of a drinker, he’d usually just read and people watch. A single drink would last him the afternoon. “Wait, so you just sipped tequila?” I asked him. “At first,” he said. “And then I discovered mezcal.”

It sounded like more of a revelation than a discovery. A few years later, I got my first taste of mezcal, when another friend brought back a bottle from Oaxaca. I’m not a tequila drinker, but I was quickly informed that tequila and mezcal are close siblings of very, very different temperaments. Mezcal is not something you take a shot of but rather something you put in a sniffer. It’s all smoke at first taste, but when it clears, a bouquet of flavor opens on your palette, and the distinctive sweetness of agave slides across your tongue. This I could sip!

In the past few years, mezcal’s become a bit of a boutique fascination in the United States—and for good reason. Mezcal is everything city-dwelling, money-spending hipsters like out of a spirit. It’s obscure. It’s organic. It’s small batch. It’s arcane (in a good way). And most importantly, it’s artisanal.


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