Tequila and mezcal may be similar in some ways but they are two distinct types of Mexican spirits. Despite their similarities, there are some stark differences between the two that set them apart.
Tequila is made from the agave plant, specifically the blue variety, and is distilled in the Jalisco region of Mexico. Tequila can be made from other varieties of agave but it must be grown in the region to be classified as true tequila. Mezcal is also made from agave but from a variety of plants, not just the blue variety. It is distilled in several regions of Mexico outside of Jalisco and has a smokier flavor than tequila.
Tequila is classified into four distinct types: blanco, reposado, añejo, and extra añejo. Blanco is the most clear and has the most flavor of the agave plant. Reposado is aged in oak barrels for two months to a year, giving it a golden hue and a smooth flavor. Añejo is aged for at least one year and is slightly darker in color and has a deeper flavor. Extra añejo is aged for at least three years and has a dark brown hue and a very rich flavor.
Mezcal is classified into two types based on the type of agave used: espadín and maguey. Espadín is made from the agave espadín and is the most common type of mezcal. It has a distinct smoky flavor that comes from the roasting of the agave in an underground pit. Maguey is made from several varieties of agave and has a more complex flavor than espadín.
When it comes to production, Tequila is made by steaming the agave in large autoclaves, while Mezcal is made by roasting the agave in underground pits. This gives Mezcal its smoky flavor, which is absent in Tequila.
Tequila is typically a clear liquid, while Mezcal can be either clear or a golden brown color. In terms of flavor, Tequila is typically smooth and sweet, while Mezcal is smoky and more intense.
Tequila is usually served straight up or in cocktails, while Mezcal is often served with a side of orange and ground chili.