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Mythbusters: Mezcal Edition

The rumor mill works overtime when it comes to mezcal.

The U.S. surpassed Mexico to become the world’s largest market for mezcal in 2019, according to the Los Angeles Times. That same year, Drizly reported a 600 percent jump in mezcal sales stateside. So what do you need to know about sipping and serving mezcal? We asked Brian Smith, a spirits specialist for Denver’s Classic Beverage Company (which is Doña Loca’s distributor) to set right the most common misconceptions he hears about the beloved Mexican spirit.

Myth: Good mezcal should be smoky.

Brian Smith: When we talk about smokiness in mezcals, it’s not like smokiness in Scotch. When you have an Islay Scotch and it’s peated, that’s an intentional process. The reason that many mezcals are smoky is because distilleries often don’t have natural gas, so wood is their fuel. But that is not legislated into the style. I would also say calling a mezcal good or not good is a lot like calling a wine good or not good. Everyone has separate expectations. These are stylistic concerns.

Myth: Mezcal is best served in a traditional copita (a small clay vessel).

Brian Smith: It’s like a game of telephone. A bartender will say the best way to have mezcal is with a slice of orange or this accompaniment or that sangrita. Those are cultural choices. It’s an attempt to translate something from the distiller into a cocktail bar setting in the U.S. and there’s such an opportunity for misunderstanding. I’ve never had a distiller at any distillery I’ve visited in Mexico [serve out of a copita]. That’s a marketing thing. Many times it’s delicious and fantastic, but for the most part, we in the U.S. have a very specific idea of mezcal, when the world of mezcal is vast.

Talk to us! Email your experiences (and thoughts, opinions, and questions—anything, really) to askus@diningout.com


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