Like tequila, mezcal is distilled from the juice of the piña, the fruit of the agave plant. But whereas tequila can only come from the blue agave and is often factory-made, mezcal can come from just about any species of agave and is crafted only in small artisanal batches. The process involves roasting the piña before extracting the juice, which often adds a smoky note to a mezcal’s aroma and flavor. Connoisseurs argue that the best mezcals have very little smokiness, but as a scotch lover, I certainly don’t mind those that do. The juice is then fermented before distillation, adding to the spirit’s complexity.
I tried several mezcals throughout my trip, notably at Tata Mezcalería in Morelia, where the lengthy menu lists the agave species used in the spirit. Try mezcals distilled from cupreata, a wild agave native to the region. I also had a fascinating conversation with a mezcal expert at La Tequila, a fashionable and friendly restaurant and bar a short walk from the Quinta Real Guadalajara. He presented a Bruxo Mezcal Artesanal #1, which had delicious notes of paprika smoke, citrus and vanilla.