Mezcal vs Tequila: What is the difference between the two agave spirits?


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Remember when you were growing up and your math teacher told you that all squares are rectangles but not all rectangles are squares? Then this is gonna sound a little bit familiar: all tequila is mezcal, but not all mezcal is tequila. There’s a little more to it than that, though, so I’ve put together a list of how you can differentiate between the two. Let’s get into mezcal vs tequila!

@thelucasassis_ Tequila vs Mezcal! Which one is your favorite? #tequila #mezcal #mexico #learnontiktok #drinks #jalisco #oaxaca ♬ original sound – Lucas Assis

Starting off with a quick geography lesson, tequila can be made anywhere in the entire territory of the state Jalisco. Tequila can also be made at 30 municipalities in Michoacán, eight in the state of Nayarit, 11 in the state of Tamaulipas, and only seven of the municipalities in the state of Guanajuato. 

Mezcal also has its domination of origin, which is a fancy way of saying that it can only be made in 10 states. Obviously, that list includes Oaxaca, which has my heart, but it also includes: Guerrero, Michoacan, Puebla, Durango, San Luis Potosí, Zacatecas, Guanajuato, Tamaulipas, and now Sinaloa. It can also be made in the cities of: Mazatlán, Rosario, Concordia, and San Ignacio. 

Trust me, I know it can get a little complicated. But there are some differences that aren’t geographic that will help you distinguish between the two. For example, a very important thing to note here is that tequila can only be made with blue weber agave, while mezcal can be made with 40 different kinds of agave. With mezcal, a lot of the time there is some sort of an assembly with the agaves, which means multiple agaves can be used to make a singular mezcal. 

Another huge difference between the two is how they are each cooked. Traditional tequila is steamed in brick ovens, but for mezcal, it is almost always cooked in underground pits—it is not smoked. 

For me personally, though, if it is made in Mexico and it comes from an agave plant, it is definitely a mezcal, regardless if it is registered as one or not. I also think that one could make a convincing argument that the domination of origin has actually hurt more than it has helped. 

But that is just my personal opinion. If you’re a little confused about all of this, that is totally understandable. It is a lot to learn. What I’ve found to be the most helpful when explaining this to others is to just think of tequila as if it is a steamed chicken. I know it sounds really weird but try to stay with me here. 

It is still just as delicious as another chicken, but you are a little bit more limited with what you can do with it. If mezcal were a type of chicken, it would be one of those delicious rotisserie chickens that catches your nose and makes you turn your head when you walk by them at a grocery store or go to a restaurant that sells them. Anyway, the point here is that a rotisserie chicken has many more opportunities to be prepared. Just think, it can be seasoned and it can also be turned into something more… complex. Steamed chicken, though, just does not have the same potential. 

I hope that comparison helped, but if it didn’t, I am basically saying that you can do more with mezcal than tequila, but at the end of the day, they both offer a delicious flavor that you guys already know I am in love with. 

I’m looking forward to hearing if you guys like mezcal or tequila more. Until then, salucita!