Mezcal vs. Tequila

We Need To Stop Calling Mezcal a 'Smoky Tequila'

Posted by Barterhouse on January 31, 2020

For those of us who have a taste for the unpredictable, tequila often makes for a wildly fun drink of choice. It’s said to elevate the mood and boost appetite. So, next time you’re slap-happy drunk from tequila shots, don’t blame yourself for the midnight fast food run. But, what makes tequila most unique from other spirits is that it’s made with blue agave. This contributes to the lower calorie, yet higher energy intake you’ll experience when you choose shots of tequila over shots of vodka. People often hail tequila as the prime Mexican gemstone within the world of spirits, but far too often they forget about tequila’s sultry cousin, mezcal. If you are among the tequila lovers who don’t know much about mezcal, you are in for a special treat. Mezcal is bodied, smoky, and within the tequila family. Some people tend to think of mezcal as a type of tequila, but that is simply not the case. The history of mezcal is rich and the production is time consuming, making it a far more rare and exclusive experience. 


Mezcal, which is steeped in Mexican tradition, is like tequila in that it’s made from pure agave, therefore giving someone the same euphoric drinking experiences as tequila; however, it doesn’t necessarily need to be made with blue agave (a condition necessary for tequila). Mezcal can be made with a whole variety of agave species, but it is best when it is made with maguey agave. Both blue agave and maguey cultivate piñas, which is the part of the plant used to create the spirits. What most people consider to be the main difference between tequila and mezcal is mezcal’s distinct and smoky taste. Tequila is produced with piñas which are cooked in steam ovens, making it easy to mass produce. Tequila often acquires a citrus or sweeter taste. Once aged, tequila can also adopt some oaky notes. On the other hand, maguey (depending on the species) can take up to 30 years to reach the point at which it can be used to create mezcal. Once the maguey piñas are ready, they are roasted in a huge fire pit, yielding that amazing smoky flavor. Depending on the type of maguey used, mezcal can taste robust or even somewhat fruity. Broken down most simply is that due to the laws surrounding tequila production (that it must come from blue agave), tequila is a type of mezcal but mezcal is not a type of tequila. 


Now that you know the history and differences between tequila and mezcal, you can impress a future date or party guests by schooling them in this history lesson. You can spread the news to people that mezcal is not just tequila with a smoky flavor. However, because it does in fact have that unique flavor, sometimes people don’t know what types of drinks to order when they’d like to drink mezcal. Because mezcal is such a strong flavor on its own, great mezcal cocktails often only require one or two other pairings. Here are our favorite two/three-step cocktails that contain mezcal… First, of course, you’ll want to purchase some of our fantastic Grupo Mexcalito mezcal straight from Mexico and stabilized in vats of Oak for 2 months, giving it a rich and amazing flavor. 


  1. Mezcal & Cucumber Soda: The cucumber mimics and enhances the smoky earth flavors in the mezcal, while simultaneously cooling down the heat packed into the alcohol. 
  2. Mezcal Mule (mezcal and ginger soda): People love this drink because the combination of ginger with a robust earthy flavor proves something that is equal parts refreshing and unique. 
  3. Mezcal & Pineapple Juice (with hot spices): Sweet, spicy, and smoky notes come together in this cocktail to delightfully dance across your palate. 
  4. Mezcal & Salt: This may come as a shock, but tequila and mezcal are meant to be sipped! Pair it with some salt and you are good to go. 
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