You sure tried Tequila at some point in your life. But have you tried mezcal? The ancient Mexican liquor has become the hot new drink trend – not only in Mexico.
Legend has it, that a long time ago, an Aztec tribesman witnessed a lightning struck an agave plant, cooking and opening it, releasing the liquid inside. Eventually they discovered that the sweet sap fermented became a beverage with powerful properties. By drinking it, they could communicate with the gods, which is why it was called the elixir of the gods.
Fast-forward a few hundred years. While Mexico is worldwide known for its tequila, mezcal has long been its poor cousin, “firewater” for the lower class and hardly known beyond the Mexican border. Over the last few years this has changed a lot, with fancy mezcalerias popping up all over the world, serving not only pure mezcal, but all sorts of drinks that contain the spirit.
Now, whatever your beliefs are, and even though mezcal is quite different from the liquor used in pre-Hispanic times, the fact that they used it to communicate with their gods sure enough shows that you shouldn’t underestimate how strong the liquor is. And if that’s not enough, according to Greek mythology Agave was the goddess of desire who helped raise Dionysus, the father of bacchanals and profound inebriation. Just saying, be careful, mezcal is no light weight spirit.
Mezcal comes from the Nahuatl word mezcalli, what means cooked agave. Hence, mezcal refers to all types of alcohol made from the agave plant. Mezcal can be made of 30 varieties of agave. This makes tequila, made only of one specific type of agave (Blue agave), a type of mezcal.
The center of the Mezcal universe is Oaxaca, with nearly 90% of the mezcal production. Good Mezcal is still handcrafted, using century old methods. The agave hearts, called piñas (because they look like giant pineapples) are cooked during several days in an underground, earthen pit that is lined with volcanic rock.
The cooked piñas are crushed with a stone wheel turned by a horse or a donkey. The mash is then fermented and the resulting liquid distilled in either clay or copper pots.
If you visit Mexico you should definitely try mezcal. Always remember the saying “It should be kissed not shot”, meaning don’t down it in a gulp the college-spring-break-way, but savor it. These are the best places to drink mezcal in Playa del Carmen:
Besides of traditional Mexican food, they serve a selection of the best artisanal mezcal. On the menu are also cocktails with mezcal. They seek to revive Mexican culture and traditions, informing their customers of the history, concepts and forms of consumptions of their products, what makes it the number one place in Playa del Carmen to try mezcal. (Street 34, between Avenues 5 and 10)
This is the perfect place to start your night out with a couple of friends. The small bar only fits about 20 people, and they serve mainly mezcal drinks of all sorts. If you speak some Spanish you can learn quite some wisdom from the quotes covering their walls. For example the Oaxacan saying “Para todo mal, mezcal. Para todo bien, también” (For everything bad, mezcal, and for everything good, too). Try their mojito with mezcal and their mango mezcal martini! (10th Street, between Avenues 5 and 10)
This disco and bar just a few steps from Playa Palms Beach Hotel is not a place to hang out and chat with your friends, since they play loud music. But to dance, have fun or just stop by for their famous shots of flavored mezcal. Our favorite flavor: Passion fruit. (12th Street with Avenue 1 bis)