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20 (Aug 2014)

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Artisanla mezcal is the new bartenders’ secret.

Mezcal, or mescal is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from the maguey plant (a form of agave, Agave americana) native to Mexico. The word mezcal comes from Nahuatl mexcalli which means “oven-cooked agave” (source: Wikipedia).

The maguey grows in many parts of Mexico, though most mezcal is made in Oaxaca.

Over the last few years, mezcal – as tequila – has entered the upscale spirit market, expecially through the uniquely flavored artisanal ones.

While agave comes in over 200 species, Tequila is derived specifically from the blue agave in a highly regulated method in Jalisco. Mezcal, on the other hand, is made from a variety of different agaves in various parts of Mexico and can be combined in much the same way wine is, to create a more complex palette.

Good artisanal Oaxacan mezcals, such as the single-village ones, generally cost above $50 a bottle, but can go up to several hundreds. Because it’s distilled to bottling proof or very close to it (most spirits are distilled to a higher degree of alcohol and then diluted), its flavor is deep and penetrating and does not blend easily. That said, if it can be tamed, it can be used for memorable cocktails.

New varieties of Mezcal have popped up along with “mezcalerías” which are similar to wine bars in ambiance and dedicate themselves to serving a wide selection of the more than 150 brands of the now popular alcoholic drink.

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