Aug 23, 2010

Mezcal in The New York Times: Del Maguey takes 1st prize in taste test

by Alexandra Forbes

I was not only glad but very pleasantly surprised to read, today in The New York Times, a comparison between some of the top Mezcals available in Mexico. It is, quite simply, my favourite spirit and the only one I actually enjoy sipping slowly. Especially if it comes with a side of lime wedges and sal de gusano, a salt that is flavoured with dried, crushed gusano worm.

Eric Asimov's description of mezcal is on-point: "Mezcal is one of the world’s great spirits: complex, gorgeous and endlessly intriguing, distinguished like great wines by a strong sense of place. Mezcal is little known (...), even less understood"... 

 I enjoy biting into a lime wedge after each sip - the flavours have a big fiery bite that I find addictive. I've always had a very hard time a) convincing anyone how good mezcal is and b) explaining how different it is from tequila, its cousin made in the Jalisco region, from blue agave.

In very few words, Asimov says it all:

"...the flavors in mezcal are unlike those in any other spirit, even tequila. They are diverse, fitting for a spirit that reflects its terroir so well, and gorgeous in their rusticity.
I understand that rusticity is often a pejorative term, but not as far as mezcal goes. The flavors of a great mezcal are unmediated by oak or long aging. They offer no vanillas or chocolates, honeys or heathers. Instead, you get a briny, vegetal burst, with Tabasco-like hints of vinegar, salt, oily smoke and earth, and an uncompromising purity."

Let's just hope that articles like these come out more often and that Mexicans start waking up to the greatness of what's made in their own backyard. I find it shameful that so few restaurants in Mexico offer mezcal - too many of them consider mezcal "the poor man's drink", and outside of its original city of Oaxaca it remains, to this day, relatively unknown and unavailable.

To read Asimov's story and see how the brands compared, click here.