Cocktail Recipes, Spirits, and Local Bars

What Is Mezcal and Why Is It the Hottest Spirit in America? Slideshow

What Is Mezcal and Why Is It the Hottest Spirit in America? Slideshow


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Mezcal’s migration to the American bar scene has made huge strides

Ancient Etymology

The name mezcal is a product of two Nahuatl terms (“melt” and “ixcalli”), together meaning “oven-cooked agave.” The term dates back to thousands of years ago.

Barrel-Aged Mezcals Are Not to Be Underestimated

“One should not overlook barrel-aged mezcals,” says Ilegal Mezcal founder John Rexer. “The practice of aging mezcal goes back as far as the mid-1700s and probably further. What began as a way for storing and transporting mezcal eventually evolved into a way of accenting certain flavors and an art form. If you like darker spirits, try a reposado or añejo. To me, the best aged mezcals are ones where the oak does not overshadow the agave.”

Beware of the Larva

The bizarre practice of adding larvae to the bottle is a bit of a gimmick and is generally indicative of low-quality distillation. It was originally added in the 1950s to mask imbalance or poor flavor profiles.

Don’t Let the Smoke Deter You

Ilegal Mezcal founder John Rexer says, “I think there is a misconception that mezcal is a very smoky spirit. Indeed there are mezcals that have that profile, but there are many mezcals with very light smoke profiles where the taste of the agave is much more forward. I think that as people discover this, the category begins to open up and bring in more converts.”

Four Distinct Categories of Mezcal

Joven is generally unaged or casked for a period of time shorter than two months, whereas reposado is aged in oak for at least two months, but no longer than a year. Añejo is aged between one and three years, and extra añejo is, well, aged longer. A mezcal cannot be considered extra añejo unless it is aged for at least three years.

Mezcal and the Conquistadors

The Spaniards were no strangers to distillation, and they brought these practices with them to Mexico. Though it’s unclear as to whether or not the Mexican population had already been producing any liquors prior to the arrival of the Conquistadors, the birth of mezcal is largely attributed to the Spanish Conquest era.

Mezcal Comes From the Maguey Plant

Mezcal can be produced from many types of agave, but it was originally distilled from the heart of the Maguey plant, a subspecies of agave native to Mexico. This is cultivated for the production of mezcal throughout several Mexican regions. The hearts of the plant (either maguey or other agaves, depending on brand) are harvested and roasted in pits in the ground. A mash is then made by grinding the roasted hearts and adding water, and the fermenting process begins. Today, a large amount of mezcals are made with an Oaxacan variety of agave called espadín.

Regulated Since 1994

Though mezcal has technically been around for centuries, it was only officially recognized in the 1990s by the Mexican Regulatory Council for Mezcal Quality. This regulation ensures the protection of the practice via “Appellation of Origin” (similar to France’s regulation of Champagne) and governs the validity of the ‘100 percent agave’ label.

Sacred Ritualistic Ties

Though Maguey was once regarded as a sacred plant. The plant has quite the history, dating back to pre-Spanish occupation. It is said that maguey ws often used in religious rituals, more specifically the practice of bloodletting, which was used by Mayan royals to introduce a trance-like state in order to connect with ancestors or gods through supernatural visions.


Cheech Marin Is Here To Give You A Gateway Guide To Mezcal

When Cheech Marin got into the alcohol game he wanted to do something special. He didn’t just want to peddle another wine or beer that wouldn’t mean anything to him culturally. Instead, he went for something that he could connect to on a deeper level: mezcal.

It wasn’t all about history for Cheech, though. He was also excited about mezcal’s taste. He wanted to surprise people with a liquor as smoky as his film resume. The result? Tres Papalote Mezcal — which is unusually smooth, especially for a spirit with 46% alcohol, but maintains mezcal’s trademark flavors.

“We’re in a changing time when it comes to flavor,” Marin told Uproxx. “We’re in a generation with both millennials and older people looking for big tastes — so I feel like it’s a wide open time for mezcal.”

We asked the film legend for help navigating this lesser known of the agave-based spirits.

WHAT IS MEZCAL?

Marin was first approached about selling an alcohol a few years ago, when a team of investors pitched him on wine. When he passed, an associate asked “how about a tequila?” Marin wasn’t impressed, telling us, “Everyone’s doing tequila out there. But it crossed my mind, ‘Hey there’s not a lot of mezcal out here and people hardly know what it is.'”

He’s right, in a world in love with tequila, mezcal’s unique history is often lost — which is a shame, because it’s fascinating:

Ages ago, when the Spanish Conquistadors landed in Mesoamerica they were greeted with a fermented, slightly alcoholic drink called pulque. The fermented drink was thick, creamy, and a little sour — not really the Spaniards cup of tea. But the Spaniards had shown up with pot stills to make spirits from sugar cane, just as they’d already started to do in the the Caribbean. Versions of this distilled cane drink still exist around the Caribbean, South America, and Central America, called aquardiente (literally fire water).

But Mexico wasn’t covered in sugar cane, it was covered in agave. And when the rum ran out, they started tinkering with the local pulque and ended up inventing mezcal. Later, Mezcal got big production boost when Spain’s crown forbade their colonies from grape-based alcohol production, so as not to disrupt vineyards and producers back home. Suddenly, the spirit became a major focus of growers and distillers throughout Mexico.

HOW IT’S MADE

Once Marin settled on mezcal, he found the battle to have people take note to be a little harder than he expected. “People go ‘Oh, I like your tequila!’ and, man, I have to always correct them, ‘No … It’s mezcal.’ That’s because mezcal doesn’t have a face, you know. There’s nobody to speak for it — there’s no George Clooney saying ‘Hey! Drink this.'”

He sees his own role as a sort of mezcal ambassador, here to tell people: “Number one, it doesn’t come with a worm. And number two, it doesn’t taste like tequila.”

What separates mezcal is the plant involved in the mash, distillation, and aging processes. The spirit began as a small batch production and remains largely that to this day. Originally, it was made from almost any agave plant — either wild or cultivated. This means that tequila, which is made solely from blue agave, is a type of mezcal.

The agave plants are generally grown for 12-15 years before the piña, or heart, of the plant is harvested by hand. Next, the piñas are loaded into a large pit oven heated with hot stones then covered up to smoke and roast for about three days. This is another way mezcal differs from tequila — which is roasted in clay ovens above ground, sans smoke (generally).

Once the piñas are properly roasted a mash is made by crushing the still hot agave with a massive stone mill (traditionally pulled by a horse). That mash is transferred to a barrel and water is added. This is where the initial fermentation takes place. The mash is filtered and transferred to a pot still (or a clay still in some cases) and distilled twice to get the alcohol content to around 55 percent.

At this point, there are some interesting varietals that enter the mix. First, during the fermentation and distillation spices, fruits, herbs, and even chicken breasts can be added to make different ‘flavored’ mezcals. As with any alcohol, mezcal doesn’t necessarily have to be aged. The inherent smokey notes are forged in the pit while roasting. But, again, as with most alcohols, the aging of mezcal is where the smoothness comes from.

A quick aging primer:

‘Dorado’ is un-aged mezcal with a color additive giving it a golden hue. The coloring agent is often added to mezcals that aren’t pure — which mean they have at least 80 percent agave and 20 percent other grain spirits or other agave distillates. Generally speaking, varietals above a ‘Dorado’ are going to be 100 percent agave. Always peruse the label to figure out what you’re dealing with when it comes to agave purity.

‘Joven’ means un-aged/young mezcal.

‘Reposado’ or ‘añejado’ are aged up to nine months in a barrel.

‘Añejo’ is barrel-aged generally from 18 months to three years (sometimes you’ll find an Añejo that’s only been aged for 12 months).

If an ‘Añejo’ has been aged 4 years or more, it’s always 100 percent agave.

About 30 species of agave have been certified to make mezcal in seven Mexican states per the government’s appellation ordinance. Oaxaca is the main production center with 570 out of the 625 mezcal distilleries in Mexico. You’ll also find mezcals from Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, San Luis Potosí, Tamaulipas, and Zacatecas.

Cheech Marin’s Tres Papalote is the perfect example of a boutique and artisanal mezcal that champions quality over quantity. Marin proudly told us that “the distillers use a third distillation for purity reasons.” He continues on that “Tres Papalote only uses a wild agave called ‘cupreata’ which only grows in Guerrero” and that the mezcal is still handmade. That third distillation is reminiscent of Irish whiskey and gives this mezcal a refinement that mellows the alcohol taste, making it a smokey, smooth ride.


Cheech Marin Is Here To Give You A Gateway Guide To Mezcal

When Cheech Marin got into the alcohol game he wanted to do something special. He didn’t just want to peddle another wine or beer that wouldn’t mean anything to him culturally. Instead, he went for something that he could connect to on a deeper level: mezcal.

It wasn’t all about history for Cheech, though. He was also excited about mezcal’s taste. He wanted to surprise people with a liquor as smoky as his film resume. The result? Tres Papalote Mezcal — which is unusually smooth, especially for a spirit with 46% alcohol, but maintains mezcal’s trademark flavors.

“We’re in a changing time when it comes to flavor,” Marin told Uproxx. “We’re in a generation with both millennials and older people looking for big tastes — so I feel like it’s a wide open time for mezcal.”

We asked the film legend for help navigating this lesser known of the agave-based spirits.

WHAT IS MEZCAL?

Marin was first approached about selling an alcohol a few years ago, when a team of investors pitched him on wine. When he passed, an associate asked “how about a tequila?” Marin wasn’t impressed, telling us, “Everyone’s doing tequila out there. But it crossed my mind, ‘Hey there’s not a lot of mezcal out here and people hardly know what it is.'”

He’s right, in a world in love with tequila, mezcal’s unique history is often lost — which is a shame, because it’s fascinating:

Ages ago, when the Spanish Conquistadors landed in Mesoamerica they were greeted with a fermented, slightly alcoholic drink called pulque. The fermented drink was thick, creamy, and a little sour — not really the Spaniards cup of tea. But the Spaniards had shown up with pot stills to make spirits from sugar cane, just as they’d already started to do in the the Caribbean. Versions of this distilled cane drink still exist around the Caribbean, South America, and Central America, called aquardiente (literally fire water).

But Mexico wasn’t covered in sugar cane, it was covered in agave. And when the rum ran out, they started tinkering with the local pulque and ended up inventing mezcal. Later, Mezcal got big production boost when Spain’s crown forbade their colonies from grape-based alcohol production, so as not to disrupt vineyards and producers back home. Suddenly, the spirit became a major focus of growers and distillers throughout Mexico.

HOW IT’S MADE

Once Marin settled on mezcal, he found the battle to have people take note to be a little harder than he expected. “People go ‘Oh, I like your tequila!’ and, man, I have to always correct them, ‘No … It’s mezcal.’ That’s because mezcal doesn’t have a face, you know. There’s nobody to speak for it — there’s no George Clooney saying ‘Hey! Drink this.'”

He sees his own role as a sort of mezcal ambassador, here to tell people: “Number one, it doesn’t come with a worm. And number two, it doesn’t taste like tequila.”

What separates mezcal is the plant involved in the mash, distillation, and aging processes. The spirit began as a small batch production and remains largely that to this day. Originally, it was made from almost any agave plant — either wild or cultivated. This means that tequila, which is made solely from blue agave, is a type of mezcal.

The agave plants are generally grown for 12-15 years before the piña, or heart, of the plant is harvested by hand. Next, the piñas are loaded into a large pit oven heated with hot stones then covered up to smoke and roast for about three days. This is another way mezcal differs from tequila — which is roasted in clay ovens above ground, sans smoke (generally).

Once the piñas are properly roasted a mash is made by crushing the still hot agave with a massive stone mill (traditionally pulled by a horse). That mash is transferred to a barrel and water is added. This is where the initial fermentation takes place. The mash is filtered and transferred to a pot still (or a clay still in some cases) and distilled twice to get the alcohol content to around 55 percent.

At this point, there are some interesting varietals that enter the mix. First, during the fermentation and distillation spices, fruits, herbs, and even chicken breasts can be added to make different ‘flavored’ mezcals. As with any alcohol, mezcal doesn’t necessarily have to be aged. The inherent smokey notes are forged in the pit while roasting. But, again, as with most alcohols, the aging of mezcal is where the smoothness comes from.

A quick aging primer:

‘Dorado’ is un-aged mezcal with a color additive giving it a golden hue. The coloring agent is often added to mezcals that aren’t pure — which mean they have at least 80 percent agave and 20 percent other grain spirits or other agave distillates. Generally speaking, varietals above a ‘Dorado’ are going to be 100 percent agave. Always peruse the label to figure out what you’re dealing with when it comes to agave purity.

‘Joven’ means un-aged/young mezcal.

‘Reposado’ or ‘añejado’ are aged up to nine months in a barrel.

‘Añejo’ is barrel-aged generally from 18 months to three years (sometimes you’ll find an Añejo that’s only been aged for 12 months).

If an ‘Añejo’ has been aged 4 years or more, it’s always 100 percent agave.

About 30 species of agave have been certified to make mezcal in seven Mexican states per the government’s appellation ordinance. Oaxaca is the main production center with 570 out of the 625 mezcal distilleries in Mexico. You’ll also find mezcals from Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, San Luis Potosí, Tamaulipas, and Zacatecas.

Cheech Marin’s Tres Papalote is the perfect example of a boutique and artisanal mezcal that champions quality over quantity. Marin proudly told us that “the distillers use a third distillation for purity reasons.” He continues on that “Tres Papalote only uses a wild agave called ‘cupreata’ which only grows in Guerrero” and that the mezcal is still handmade. That third distillation is reminiscent of Irish whiskey and gives this mezcal a refinement that mellows the alcohol taste, making it a smokey, smooth ride.


Cheech Marin Is Here To Give You A Gateway Guide To Mezcal

When Cheech Marin got into the alcohol game he wanted to do something special. He didn’t just want to peddle another wine or beer that wouldn’t mean anything to him culturally. Instead, he went for something that he could connect to on a deeper level: mezcal.

It wasn’t all about history for Cheech, though. He was also excited about mezcal’s taste. He wanted to surprise people with a liquor as smoky as his film resume. The result? Tres Papalote Mezcal — which is unusually smooth, especially for a spirit with 46% alcohol, but maintains mezcal’s trademark flavors.

“We’re in a changing time when it comes to flavor,” Marin told Uproxx. “We’re in a generation with both millennials and older people looking for big tastes — so I feel like it’s a wide open time for mezcal.”

We asked the film legend for help navigating this lesser known of the agave-based spirits.

WHAT IS MEZCAL?

Marin was first approached about selling an alcohol a few years ago, when a team of investors pitched him on wine. When he passed, an associate asked “how about a tequila?” Marin wasn’t impressed, telling us, “Everyone’s doing tequila out there. But it crossed my mind, ‘Hey there’s not a lot of mezcal out here and people hardly know what it is.'”

He’s right, in a world in love with tequila, mezcal’s unique history is often lost — which is a shame, because it’s fascinating:

Ages ago, when the Spanish Conquistadors landed in Mesoamerica they were greeted with a fermented, slightly alcoholic drink called pulque. The fermented drink was thick, creamy, and a little sour — not really the Spaniards cup of tea. But the Spaniards had shown up with pot stills to make spirits from sugar cane, just as they’d already started to do in the the Caribbean. Versions of this distilled cane drink still exist around the Caribbean, South America, and Central America, called aquardiente (literally fire water).

But Mexico wasn’t covered in sugar cane, it was covered in agave. And when the rum ran out, they started tinkering with the local pulque and ended up inventing mezcal. Later, Mezcal got big production boost when Spain’s crown forbade their colonies from grape-based alcohol production, so as not to disrupt vineyards and producers back home. Suddenly, the spirit became a major focus of growers and distillers throughout Mexico.

HOW IT’S MADE

Once Marin settled on mezcal, he found the battle to have people take note to be a little harder than he expected. “People go ‘Oh, I like your tequila!’ and, man, I have to always correct them, ‘No … It’s mezcal.’ That’s because mezcal doesn’t have a face, you know. There’s nobody to speak for it — there’s no George Clooney saying ‘Hey! Drink this.'”

He sees his own role as a sort of mezcal ambassador, here to tell people: “Number one, it doesn’t come with a worm. And number two, it doesn’t taste like tequila.”

What separates mezcal is the plant involved in the mash, distillation, and aging processes. The spirit began as a small batch production and remains largely that to this day. Originally, it was made from almost any agave plant — either wild or cultivated. This means that tequila, which is made solely from blue agave, is a type of mezcal.

The agave plants are generally grown for 12-15 years before the piña, or heart, of the plant is harvested by hand. Next, the piñas are loaded into a large pit oven heated with hot stones then covered up to smoke and roast for about three days. This is another way mezcal differs from tequila — which is roasted in clay ovens above ground, sans smoke (generally).

Once the piñas are properly roasted a mash is made by crushing the still hot agave with a massive stone mill (traditionally pulled by a horse). That mash is transferred to a barrel and water is added. This is where the initial fermentation takes place. The mash is filtered and transferred to a pot still (or a clay still in some cases) and distilled twice to get the alcohol content to around 55 percent.

At this point, there are some interesting varietals that enter the mix. First, during the fermentation and distillation spices, fruits, herbs, and even chicken breasts can be added to make different ‘flavored’ mezcals. As with any alcohol, mezcal doesn’t necessarily have to be aged. The inherent smokey notes are forged in the pit while roasting. But, again, as with most alcohols, the aging of mezcal is where the smoothness comes from.

A quick aging primer:

‘Dorado’ is un-aged mezcal with a color additive giving it a golden hue. The coloring agent is often added to mezcals that aren’t pure — which mean they have at least 80 percent agave and 20 percent other grain spirits or other agave distillates. Generally speaking, varietals above a ‘Dorado’ are going to be 100 percent agave. Always peruse the label to figure out what you’re dealing with when it comes to agave purity.

‘Joven’ means un-aged/young mezcal.

‘Reposado’ or ‘añejado’ are aged up to nine months in a barrel.

‘Añejo’ is barrel-aged generally from 18 months to three years (sometimes you’ll find an Añejo that’s only been aged for 12 months).

If an ‘Añejo’ has been aged 4 years or more, it’s always 100 percent agave.

About 30 species of agave have been certified to make mezcal in seven Mexican states per the government’s appellation ordinance. Oaxaca is the main production center with 570 out of the 625 mezcal distilleries in Mexico. You’ll also find mezcals from Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, San Luis Potosí, Tamaulipas, and Zacatecas.

Cheech Marin’s Tres Papalote is the perfect example of a boutique and artisanal mezcal that champions quality over quantity. Marin proudly told us that “the distillers use a third distillation for purity reasons.” He continues on that “Tres Papalote only uses a wild agave called ‘cupreata’ which only grows in Guerrero” and that the mezcal is still handmade. That third distillation is reminiscent of Irish whiskey and gives this mezcal a refinement that mellows the alcohol taste, making it a smokey, smooth ride.


Cheech Marin Is Here To Give You A Gateway Guide To Mezcal

When Cheech Marin got into the alcohol game he wanted to do something special. He didn’t just want to peddle another wine or beer that wouldn’t mean anything to him culturally. Instead, he went for something that he could connect to on a deeper level: mezcal.

It wasn’t all about history for Cheech, though. He was also excited about mezcal’s taste. He wanted to surprise people with a liquor as smoky as his film resume. The result? Tres Papalote Mezcal — which is unusually smooth, especially for a spirit with 46% alcohol, but maintains mezcal’s trademark flavors.

“We’re in a changing time when it comes to flavor,” Marin told Uproxx. “We’re in a generation with both millennials and older people looking for big tastes — so I feel like it’s a wide open time for mezcal.”

We asked the film legend for help navigating this lesser known of the agave-based spirits.

WHAT IS MEZCAL?

Marin was first approached about selling an alcohol a few years ago, when a team of investors pitched him on wine. When he passed, an associate asked “how about a tequila?” Marin wasn’t impressed, telling us, “Everyone’s doing tequila out there. But it crossed my mind, ‘Hey there’s not a lot of mezcal out here and people hardly know what it is.'”

He’s right, in a world in love with tequila, mezcal’s unique history is often lost — which is a shame, because it’s fascinating:

Ages ago, when the Spanish Conquistadors landed in Mesoamerica they were greeted with a fermented, slightly alcoholic drink called pulque. The fermented drink was thick, creamy, and a little sour — not really the Spaniards cup of tea. But the Spaniards had shown up with pot stills to make spirits from sugar cane, just as they’d already started to do in the the Caribbean. Versions of this distilled cane drink still exist around the Caribbean, South America, and Central America, called aquardiente (literally fire water).

But Mexico wasn’t covered in sugar cane, it was covered in agave. And when the rum ran out, they started tinkering with the local pulque and ended up inventing mezcal. Later, Mezcal got big production boost when Spain’s crown forbade their colonies from grape-based alcohol production, so as not to disrupt vineyards and producers back home. Suddenly, the spirit became a major focus of growers and distillers throughout Mexico.

HOW IT’S MADE

Once Marin settled on mezcal, he found the battle to have people take note to be a little harder than he expected. “People go ‘Oh, I like your tequila!’ and, man, I have to always correct them, ‘No … It’s mezcal.’ That’s because mezcal doesn’t have a face, you know. There’s nobody to speak for it — there’s no George Clooney saying ‘Hey! Drink this.'”

He sees his own role as a sort of mezcal ambassador, here to tell people: “Number one, it doesn’t come with a worm. And number two, it doesn’t taste like tequila.”

What separates mezcal is the plant involved in the mash, distillation, and aging processes. The spirit began as a small batch production and remains largely that to this day. Originally, it was made from almost any agave plant — either wild or cultivated. This means that tequila, which is made solely from blue agave, is a type of mezcal.

The agave plants are generally grown for 12-15 years before the piña, or heart, of the plant is harvested by hand. Next, the piñas are loaded into a large pit oven heated with hot stones then covered up to smoke and roast for about three days. This is another way mezcal differs from tequila — which is roasted in clay ovens above ground, sans smoke (generally).

Once the piñas are properly roasted a mash is made by crushing the still hot agave with a massive stone mill (traditionally pulled by a horse). That mash is transferred to a barrel and water is added. This is where the initial fermentation takes place. The mash is filtered and transferred to a pot still (or a clay still in some cases) and distilled twice to get the alcohol content to around 55 percent.

At this point, there are some interesting varietals that enter the mix. First, during the fermentation and distillation spices, fruits, herbs, and even chicken breasts can be added to make different ‘flavored’ mezcals. As with any alcohol, mezcal doesn’t necessarily have to be aged. The inherent smokey notes are forged in the pit while roasting. But, again, as with most alcohols, the aging of mezcal is where the smoothness comes from.

A quick aging primer:

‘Dorado’ is un-aged mezcal with a color additive giving it a golden hue. The coloring agent is often added to mezcals that aren’t pure — which mean they have at least 80 percent agave and 20 percent other grain spirits or other agave distillates. Generally speaking, varietals above a ‘Dorado’ are going to be 100 percent agave. Always peruse the label to figure out what you’re dealing with when it comes to agave purity.

‘Joven’ means un-aged/young mezcal.

‘Reposado’ or ‘añejado’ are aged up to nine months in a barrel.

‘Añejo’ is barrel-aged generally from 18 months to three years (sometimes you’ll find an Añejo that’s only been aged for 12 months).

If an ‘Añejo’ has been aged 4 years or more, it’s always 100 percent agave.

About 30 species of agave have been certified to make mezcal in seven Mexican states per the government’s appellation ordinance. Oaxaca is the main production center with 570 out of the 625 mezcal distilleries in Mexico. You’ll also find mezcals from Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, San Luis Potosí, Tamaulipas, and Zacatecas.

Cheech Marin’s Tres Papalote is the perfect example of a boutique and artisanal mezcal that champions quality over quantity. Marin proudly told us that “the distillers use a third distillation for purity reasons.” He continues on that “Tres Papalote only uses a wild agave called ‘cupreata’ which only grows in Guerrero” and that the mezcal is still handmade. That third distillation is reminiscent of Irish whiskey and gives this mezcal a refinement that mellows the alcohol taste, making it a smokey, smooth ride.


Cheech Marin Is Here To Give You A Gateway Guide To Mezcal

When Cheech Marin got into the alcohol game he wanted to do something special. He didn’t just want to peddle another wine or beer that wouldn’t mean anything to him culturally. Instead, he went for something that he could connect to on a deeper level: mezcal.

It wasn’t all about history for Cheech, though. He was also excited about mezcal’s taste. He wanted to surprise people with a liquor as smoky as his film resume. The result? Tres Papalote Mezcal — which is unusually smooth, especially for a spirit with 46% alcohol, but maintains mezcal’s trademark flavors.

“We’re in a changing time when it comes to flavor,” Marin told Uproxx. “We’re in a generation with both millennials and older people looking for big tastes — so I feel like it’s a wide open time for mezcal.”

We asked the film legend for help navigating this lesser known of the agave-based spirits.

WHAT IS MEZCAL?

Marin was first approached about selling an alcohol a few years ago, when a team of investors pitched him on wine. When he passed, an associate asked “how about a tequila?” Marin wasn’t impressed, telling us, “Everyone’s doing tequila out there. But it crossed my mind, ‘Hey there’s not a lot of mezcal out here and people hardly know what it is.'”

He’s right, in a world in love with tequila, mezcal’s unique history is often lost — which is a shame, because it’s fascinating:

Ages ago, when the Spanish Conquistadors landed in Mesoamerica they were greeted with a fermented, slightly alcoholic drink called pulque. The fermented drink was thick, creamy, and a little sour — not really the Spaniards cup of tea. But the Spaniards had shown up with pot stills to make spirits from sugar cane, just as they’d already started to do in the the Caribbean. Versions of this distilled cane drink still exist around the Caribbean, South America, and Central America, called aquardiente (literally fire water).

But Mexico wasn’t covered in sugar cane, it was covered in agave. And when the rum ran out, they started tinkering with the local pulque and ended up inventing mezcal. Later, Mezcal got big production boost when Spain’s crown forbade their colonies from grape-based alcohol production, so as not to disrupt vineyards and producers back home. Suddenly, the spirit became a major focus of growers and distillers throughout Mexico.

HOW IT’S MADE

Once Marin settled on mezcal, he found the battle to have people take note to be a little harder than he expected. “People go ‘Oh, I like your tequila!’ and, man, I have to always correct them, ‘No … It’s mezcal.’ That’s because mezcal doesn’t have a face, you know. There’s nobody to speak for it — there’s no George Clooney saying ‘Hey! Drink this.'”

He sees his own role as a sort of mezcal ambassador, here to tell people: “Number one, it doesn’t come with a worm. And number two, it doesn’t taste like tequila.”

What separates mezcal is the plant involved in the mash, distillation, and aging processes. The spirit began as a small batch production and remains largely that to this day. Originally, it was made from almost any agave plant — either wild or cultivated. This means that tequila, which is made solely from blue agave, is a type of mezcal.

The agave plants are generally grown for 12-15 years before the piña, or heart, of the plant is harvested by hand. Next, the piñas are loaded into a large pit oven heated with hot stones then covered up to smoke and roast for about three days. This is another way mezcal differs from tequila — which is roasted in clay ovens above ground, sans smoke (generally).

Once the piñas are properly roasted a mash is made by crushing the still hot agave with a massive stone mill (traditionally pulled by a horse). That mash is transferred to a barrel and water is added. This is where the initial fermentation takes place. The mash is filtered and transferred to a pot still (or a clay still in some cases) and distilled twice to get the alcohol content to around 55 percent.

At this point, there are some interesting varietals that enter the mix. First, during the fermentation and distillation spices, fruits, herbs, and even chicken breasts can be added to make different ‘flavored’ mezcals. As with any alcohol, mezcal doesn’t necessarily have to be aged. The inherent smokey notes are forged in the pit while roasting. But, again, as with most alcohols, the aging of mezcal is where the smoothness comes from.

A quick aging primer:

‘Dorado’ is un-aged mezcal with a color additive giving it a golden hue. The coloring agent is often added to mezcals that aren’t pure — which mean they have at least 80 percent agave and 20 percent other grain spirits or other agave distillates. Generally speaking, varietals above a ‘Dorado’ are going to be 100 percent agave. Always peruse the label to figure out what you’re dealing with when it comes to agave purity.

‘Joven’ means un-aged/young mezcal.

‘Reposado’ or ‘añejado’ are aged up to nine months in a barrel.

‘Añejo’ is barrel-aged generally from 18 months to three years (sometimes you’ll find an Añejo that’s only been aged for 12 months).

If an ‘Añejo’ has been aged 4 years or more, it’s always 100 percent agave.

About 30 species of agave have been certified to make mezcal in seven Mexican states per the government’s appellation ordinance. Oaxaca is the main production center with 570 out of the 625 mezcal distilleries in Mexico. You’ll also find mezcals from Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, San Luis Potosí, Tamaulipas, and Zacatecas.

Cheech Marin’s Tres Papalote is the perfect example of a boutique and artisanal mezcal that champions quality over quantity. Marin proudly told us that “the distillers use a third distillation for purity reasons.” He continues on that “Tres Papalote only uses a wild agave called ‘cupreata’ which only grows in Guerrero” and that the mezcal is still handmade. That third distillation is reminiscent of Irish whiskey and gives this mezcal a refinement that mellows the alcohol taste, making it a smokey, smooth ride.


Cheech Marin Is Here To Give You A Gateway Guide To Mezcal

When Cheech Marin got into the alcohol game he wanted to do something special. He didn’t just want to peddle another wine or beer that wouldn’t mean anything to him culturally. Instead, he went for something that he could connect to on a deeper level: mezcal.

It wasn’t all about history for Cheech, though. He was also excited about mezcal’s taste. He wanted to surprise people with a liquor as smoky as his film resume. The result? Tres Papalote Mezcal — which is unusually smooth, especially for a spirit with 46% alcohol, but maintains mezcal’s trademark flavors.

“We’re in a changing time when it comes to flavor,” Marin told Uproxx. “We’re in a generation with both millennials and older people looking for big tastes — so I feel like it’s a wide open time for mezcal.”

We asked the film legend for help navigating this lesser known of the agave-based spirits.

WHAT IS MEZCAL?

Marin was first approached about selling an alcohol a few years ago, when a team of investors pitched him on wine. When he passed, an associate asked “how about a tequila?” Marin wasn’t impressed, telling us, “Everyone’s doing tequila out there. But it crossed my mind, ‘Hey there’s not a lot of mezcal out here and people hardly know what it is.'”

He’s right, in a world in love with tequila, mezcal’s unique history is often lost — which is a shame, because it’s fascinating:

Ages ago, when the Spanish Conquistadors landed in Mesoamerica they were greeted with a fermented, slightly alcoholic drink called pulque. The fermented drink was thick, creamy, and a little sour — not really the Spaniards cup of tea. But the Spaniards had shown up with pot stills to make spirits from sugar cane, just as they’d already started to do in the the Caribbean. Versions of this distilled cane drink still exist around the Caribbean, South America, and Central America, called aquardiente (literally fire water).

But Mexico wasn’t covered in sugar cane, it was covered in agave. And when the rum ran out, they started tinkering with the local pulque and ended up inventing mezcal. Later, Mezcal got big production boost when Spain’s crown forbade their colonies from grape-based alcohol production, so as not to disrupt vineyards and producers back home. Suddenly, the spirit became a major focus of growers and distillers throughout Mexico.

HOW IT’S MADE

Once Marin settled on mezcal, he found the battle to have people take note to be a little harder than he expected. “People go ‘Oh, I like your tequila!’ and, man, I have to always correct them, ‘No … It’s mezcal.’ That’s because mezcal doesn’t have a face, you know. There’s nobody to speak for it — there’s no George Clooney saying ‘Hey! Drink this.'”

He sees his own role as a sort of mezcal ambassador, here to tell people: “Number one, it doesn’t come with a worm. And number two, it doesn’t taste like tequila.”

What separates mezcal is the plant involved in the mash, distillation, and aging processes. The spirit began as a small batch production and remains largely that to this day. Originally, it was made from almost any agave plant — either wild or cultivated. This means that tequila, which is made solely from blue agave, is a type of mezcal.

The agave plants are generally grown for 12-15 years before the piña, or heart, of the plant is harvested by hand. Next, the piñas are loaded into a large pit oven heated with hot stones then covered up to smoke and roast for about three days. This is another way mezcal differs from tequila — which is roasted in clay ovens above ground, sans smoke (generally).

Once the piñas are properly roasted a mash is made by crushing the still hot agave with a massive stone mill (traditionally pulled by a horse). That mash is transferred to a barrel and water is added. This is where the initial fermentation takes place. The mash is filtered and transferred to a pot still (or a clay still in some cases) and distilled twice to get the alcohol content to around 55 percent.

At this point, there are some interesting varietals that enter the mix. First, during the fermentation and distillation spices, fruits, herbs, and even chicken breasts can be added to make different ‘flavored’ mezcals. As with any alcohol, mezcal doesn’t necessarily have to be aged. The inherent smokey notes are forged in the pit while roasting. But, again, as with most alcohols, the aging of mezcal is where the smoothness comes from.

A quick aging primer:

‘Dorado’ is un-aged mezcal with a color additive giving it a golden hue. The coloring agent is often added to mezcals that aren’t pure — which mean they have at least 80 percent agave and 20 percent other grain spirits or other agave distillates. Generally speaking, varietals above a ‘Dorado’ are going to be 100 percent agave. Always peruse the label to figure out what you’re dealing with when it comes to agave purity.

‘Joven’ means un-aged/young mezcal.

‘Reposado’ or ‘añejado’ are aged up to nine months in a barrel.

‘Añejo’ is barrel-aged generally from 18 months to three years (sometimes you’ll find an Añejo that’s only been aged for 12 months).

If an ‘Añejo’ has been aged 4 years or more, it’s always 100 percent agave.

About 30 species of agave have been certified to make mezcal in seven Mexican states per the government’s appellation ordinance. Oaxaca is the main production center with 570 out of the 625 mezcal distilleries in Mexico. You’ll also find mezcals from Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, San Luis Potosí, Tamaulipas, and Zacatecas.

Cheech Marin’s Tres Papalote is the perfect example of a boutique and artisanal mezcal that champions quality over quantity. Marin proudly told us that “the distillers use a third distillation for purity reasons.” He continues on that “Tres Papalote only uses a wild agave called ‘cupreata’ which only grows in Guerrero” and that the mezcal is still handmade. That third distillation is reminiscent of Irish whiskey and gives this mezcal a refinement that mellows the alcohol taste, making it a smokey, smooth ride.


Cheech Marin Is Here To Give You A Gateway Guide To Mezcal

When Cheech Marin got into the alcohol game he wanted to do something special. He didn’t just want to peddle another wine or beer that wouldn’t mean anything to him culturally. Instead, he went for something that he could connect to on a deeper level: mezcal.

It wasn’t all about history for Cheech, though. He was also excited about mezcal’s taste. He wanted to surprise people with a liquor as smoky as his film resume. The result? Tres Papalote Mezcal — which is unusually smooth, especially for a spirit with 46% alcohol, but maintains mezcal’s trademark flavors.

“We’re in a changing time when it comes to flavor,” Marin told Uproxx. “We’re in a generation with both millennials and older people looking for big tastes — so I feel like it’s a wide open time for mezcal.”

We asked the film legend for help navigating this lesser known of the agave-based spirits.

WHAT IS MEZCAL?

Marin was first approached about selling an alcohol a few years ago, when a team of investors pitched him on wine. When he passed, an associate asked “how about a tequila?” Marin wasn’t impressed, telling us, “Everyone’s doing tequila out there. But it crossed my mind, ‘Hey there’s not a lot of mezcal out here and people hardly know what it is.'”

He’s right, in a world in love with tequila, mezcal’s unique history is often lost — which is a shame, because it’s fascinating:

Ages ago, when the Spanish Conquistadors landed in Mesoamerica they were greeted with a fermented, slightly alcoholic drink called pulque. The fermented drink was thick, creamy, and a little sour — not really the Spaniards cup of tea. But the Spaniards had shown up with pot stills to make spirits from sugar cane, just as they’d already started to do in the the Caribbean. Versions of this distilled cane drink still exist around the Caribbean, South America, and Central America, called aquardiente (literally fire water).

But Mexico wasn’t covered in sugar cane, it was covered in agave. And when the rum ran out, they started tinkering with the local pulque and ended up inventing mezcal. Later, Mezcal got big production boost when Spain’s crown forbade their colonies from grape-based alcohol production, so as not to disrupt vineyards and producers back home. Suddenly, the spirit became a major focus of growers and distillers throughout Mexico.

HOW IT’S MADE

Once Marin settled on mezcal, he found the battle to have people take note to be a little harder than he expected. “People go ‘Oh, I like your tequila!’ and, man, I have to always correct them, ‘No … It’s mezcal.’ That’s because mezcal doesn’t have a face, you know. There’s nobody to speak for it — there’s no George Clooney saying ‘Hey! Drink this.'”

He sees his own role as a sort of mezcal ambassador, here to tell people: “Number one, it doesn’t come with a worm. And number two, it doesn’t taste like tequila.”

What separates mezcal is the plant involved in the mash, distillation, and aging processes. The spirit began as a small batch production and remains largely that to this day. Originally, it was made from almost any agave plant — either wild or cultivated. This means that tequila, which is made solely from blue agave, is a type of mezcal.

The agave plants are generally grown for 12-15 years before the piña, or heart, of the plant is harvested by hand. Next, the piñas are loaded into a large pit oven heated with hot stones then covered up to smoke and roast for about three days. This is another way mezcal differs from tequila — which is roasted in clay ovens above ground, sans smoke (generally).

Once the piñas are properly roasted a mash is made by crushing the still hot agave with a massive stone mill (traditionally pulled by a horse). That mash is transferred to a barrel and water is added. This is where the initial fermentation takes place. The mash is filtered and transferred to a pot still (or a clay still in some cases) and distilled twice to get the alcohol content to around 55 percent.

At this point, there are some interesting varietals that enter the mix. First, during the fermentation and distillation spices, fruits, herbs, and even chicken breasts can be added to make different ‘flavored’ mezcals. As with any alcohol, mezcal doesn’t necessarily have to be aged. The inherent smokey notes are forged in the pit while roasting. But, again, as with most alcohols, the aging of mezcal is where the smoothness comes from.

A quick aging primer:

‘Dorado’ is un-aged mezcal with a color additive giving it a golden hue. The coloring agent is often added to mezcals that aren’t pure — which mean they have at least 80 percent agave and 20 percent other grain spirits or other agave distillates. Generally speaking, varietals above a ‘Dorado’ are going to be 100 percent agave. Always peruse the label to figure out what you’re dealing with when it comes to agave purity.

‘Joven’ means un-aged/young mezcal.

‘Reposado’ or ‘añejado’ are aged up to nine months in a barrel.

‘Añejo’ is barrel-aged generally from 18 months to three years (sometimes you’ll find an Añejo that’s only been aged for 12 months).

If an ‘Añejo’ has been aged 4 years or more, it’s always 100 percent agave.

About 30 species of agave have been certified to make mezcal in seven Mexican states per the government’s appellation ordinance. Oaxaca is the main production center with 570 out of the 625 mezcal distilleries in Mexico. You’ll also find mezcals from Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, San Luis Potosí, Tamaulipas, and Zacatecas.

Cheech Marin’s Tres Papalote is the perfect example of a boutique and artisanal mezcal that champions quality over quantity. Marin proudly told us that “the distillers use a third distillation for purity reasons.” He continues on that “Tres Papalote only uses a wild agave called ‘cupreata’ which only grows in Guerrero” and that the mezcal is still handmade. That third distillation is reminiscent of Irish whiskey and gives this mezcal a refinement that mellows the alcohol taste, making it a smokey, smooth ride.


Cheech Marin Is Here To Give You A Gateway Guide To Mezcal

When Cheech Marin got into the alcohol game he wanted to do something special. He didn’t just want to peddle another wine or beer that wouldn’t mean anything to him culturally. Instead, he went for something that he could connect to on a deeper level: mezcal.

It wasn’t all about history for Cheech, though. He was also excited about mezcal’s taste. He wanted to surprise people with a liquor as smoky as his film resume. The result? Tres Papalote Mezcal — which is unusually smooth, especially for a spirit with 46% alcohol, but maintains mezcal’s trademark flavors.

“We’re in a changing time when it comes to flavor,” Marin told Uproxx. “We’re in a generation with both millennials and older people looking for big tastes — so I feel like it’s a wide open time for mezcal.”

We asked the film legend for help navigating this lesser known of the agave-based spirits.

WHAT IS MEZCAL?

Marin was first approached about selling an alcohol a few years ago, when a team of investors pitched him on wine. When he passed, an associate asked “how about a tequila?” Marin wasn’t impressed, telling us, “Everyone’s doing tequila out there. But it crossed my mind, ‘Hey there’s not a lot of mezcal out here and people hardly know what it is.'”

He’s right, in a world in love with tequila, mezcal’s unique history is often lost — which is a shame, because it’s fascinating:

Ages ago, when the Spanish Conquistadors landed in Mesoamerica they were greeted with a fermented, slightly alcoholic drink called pulque. The fermented drink was thick, creamy, and a little sour — not really the Spaniards cup of tea. But the Spaniards had shown up with pot stills to make spirits from sugar cane, just as they’d already started to do in the the Caribbean. Versions of this distilled cane drink still exist around the Caribbean, South America, and Central America, called aquardiente (literally fire water).

But Mexico wasn’t covered in sugar cane, it was covered in agave. And when the rum ran out, they started tinkering with the local pulque and ended up inventing mezcal. Later, Mezcal got big production boost when Spain’s crown forbade their colonies from grape-based alcohol production, so as not to disrupt vineyards and producers back home. Suddenly, the spirit became a major focus of growers and distillers throughout Mexico.

HOW IT’S MADE

Once Marin settled on mezcal, he found the battle to have people take note to be a little harder than he expected. “People go ‘Oh, I like your tequila!’ and, man, I have to always correct them, ‘No … It’s mezcal.’ That’s because mezcal doesn’t have a face, you know. There’s nobody to speak for it — there’s no George Clooney saying ‘Hey! Drink this.'”

He sees his own role as a sort of mezcal ambassador, here to tell people: “Number one, it doesn’t come with a worm. And number two, it doesn’t taste like tequila.”

What separates mezcal is the plant involved in the mash, distillation, and aging processes. The spirit began as a small batch production and remains largely that to this day. Originally, it was made from almost any agave plant — either wild or cultivated. This means that tequila, which is made solely from blue agave, is a type of mezcal.

The agave plants are generally grown for 12-15 years before the piña, or heart, of the plant is harvested by hand. Next, the piñas are loaded into a large pit oven heated with hot stones then covered up to smoke and roast for about three days. This is another way mezcal differs from tequila — which is roasted in clay ovens above ground, sans smoke (generally).

Once the piñas are properly roasted a mash is made by crushing the still hot agave with a massive stone mill (traditionally pulled by a horse). That mash is transferred to a barrel and water is added. This is where the initial fermentation takes place. The mash is filtered and transferred to a pot still (or a clay still in some cases) and distilled twice to get the alcohol content to around 55 percent.

At this point, there are some interesting varietals that enter the mix. First, during the fermentation and distillation spices, fruits, herbs, and even chicken breasts can be added to make different ‘flavored’ mezcals. As with any alcohol, mezcal doesn’t necessarily have to be aged. The inherent smokey notes are forged in the pit while roasting. But, again, as with most alcohols, the aging of mezcal is where the smoothness comes from.

A quick aging primer:

‘Dorado’ is un-aged mezcal with a color additive giving it a golden hue. The coloring agent is often added to mezcals that aren’t pure — which mean they have at least 80 percent agave and 20 percent other grain spirits or other agave distillates. Generally speaking, varietals above a ‘Dorado’ are going to be 100 percent agave. Always peruse the label to figure out what you’re dealing with when it comes to agave purity.

‘Joven’ means un-aged/young mezcal.

‘Reposado’ or ‘añejado’ are aged up to nine months in a barrel.

‘Añejo’ is barrel-aged generally from 18 months to three years (sometimes you’ll find an Añejo that’s only been aged for 12 months).

If an ‘Añejo’ has been aged 4 years or more, it’s always 100 percent agave.

About 30 species of agave have been certified to make mezcal in seven Mexican states per the government’s appellation ordinance. Oaxaca is the main production center with 570 out of the 625 mezcal distilleries in Mexico. You’ll also find mezcals from Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, San Luis Potosí, Tamaulipas, and Zacatecas.

Cheech Marin’s Tres Papalote is the perfect example of a boutique and artisanal mezcal that champions quality over quantity. Marin proudly told us that “the distillers use a third distillation for purity reasons.” He continues on that “Tres Papalote only uses a wild agave called ‘cupreata’ which only grows in Guerrero” and that the mezcal is still handmade. That third distillation is reminiscent of Irish whiskey and gives this mezcal a refinement that mellows the alcohol taste, making it a smokey, smooth ride.


Cheech Marin Is Here To Give You A Gateway Guide To Mezcal

When Cheech Marin got into the alcohol game he wanted to do something special. He didn’t just want to peddle another wine or beer that wouldn’t mean anything to him culturally. Instead, he went for something that he could connect to on a deeper level: mezcal.

It wasn’t all about history for Cheech, though. He was also excited about mezcal’s taste. He wanted to surprise people with a liquor as smoky as his film resume. The result? Tres Papalote Mezcal — which is unusually smooth, especially for a spirit with 46% alcohol, but maintains mezcal’s trademark flavors.

“We’re in a changing time when it comes to flavor,” Marin told Uproxx. “We’re in a generation with both millennials and older people looking for big tastes — so I feel like it’s a wide open time for mezcal.”

We asked the film legend for help navigating this lesser known of the agave-based spirits.

WHAT IS MEZCAL?

Marin was first approached about selling an alcohol a few years ago, when a team of investors pitched him on wine. When he passed, an associate asked “how about a tequila?” Marin wasn’t impressed, telling us, “Everyone’s doing tequila out there. But it crossed my mind, ‘Hey there’s not a lot of mezcal out here and people hardly know what it is.'”

He’s right, in a world in love with tequila, mezcal’s unique history is often lost — which is a shame, because it’s fascinating:

Ages ago, when the Spanish Conquistadors landed in Mesoamerica they were greeted with a fermented, slightly alcoholic drink called pulque. The fermented drink was thick, creamy, and a little sour — not really the Spaniards cup of tea. But the Spaniards had shown up with pot stills to make spirits from sugar cane, just as they’d already started to do in the the Caribbean. Versions of this distilled cane drink still exist around the Caribbean, South America, and Central America, called aquardiente (literally fire water).

But Mexico wasn’t covered in sugar cane, it was covered in agave. And when the rum ran out, they started tinkering with the local pulque and ended up inventing mezcal. Later, Mezcal got big production boost when Spain’s crown forbade their colonies from grape-based alcohol production, so as not to disrupt vineyards and producers back home. Suddenly, the spirit became a major focus of growers and distillers throughout Mexico.

HOW IT’S MADE

Once Marin settled on mezcal, he found the battle to have people take note to be a little harder than he expected. “People go ‘Oh, I like your tequila!’ and, man, I have to always correct them, ‘No … It’s mezcal.’ That’s because mezcal doesn’t have a face, you know. There’s nobody to speak for it — there’s no George Clooney saying ‘Hey! Drink this.'”

He sees his own role as a sort of mezcal ambassador, here to tell people: “Number one, it doesn’t come with a worm. And number two, it doesn’t taste like tequila.”

What separates mezcal is the plant involved in the mash, distillation, and aging processes. The spirit began as a small batch production and remains largely that to this day. Originally, it was made from almost any agave plant — either wild or cultivated. This means that tequila, which is made solely from blue agave, is a type of mezcal.

The agave plants are generally grown for 12-15 years before the piña, or heart, of the plant is harvested by hand. Next, the piñas are loaded into a large pit oven heated with hot stones then covered up to smoke and roast for about three days. This is another way mezcal differs from tequila — which is roasted in clay ovens above ground, sans smoke (generally).

Once the piñas are properly roasted a mash is made by crushing the still hot agave with a massive stone mill (traditionally pulled by a horse). That mash is transferred to a barrel and water is added. This is where the initial fermentation takes place. The mash is filtered and transferred to a pot still (or a clay still in some cases) and distilled twice to get the alcohol content to around 55 percent.

At this point, there are some interesting varietals that enter the mix. First, during the fermentation and distillation spices, fruits, herbs, and even chicken breasts can be added to make different ‘flavored’ mezcals. As with any alcohol, mezcal doesn’t necessarily have to be aged. The inherent smokey notes are forged in the pit while roasting. But, again, as with most alcohols, the aging of mezcal is where the smoothness comes from.

A quick aging primer:

‘Dorado’ is un-aged mezcal with a color additive giving it a golden hue. The coloring agent is often added to mezcals that aren’t pure — which mean they have at least 80 percent agave and 20 percent other grain spirits or other agave distillates. Generally speaking, varietals above a ‘Dorado’ are going to be 100 percent agave. Always peruse the label to figure out what you’re dealing with when it comes to agave purity.

‘Joven’ means un-aged/young mezcal.

‘Reposado’ or ‘añejado’ are aged up to nine months in a barrel.

‘Añejo’ is barrel-aged generally from 18 months to three years (sometimes you’ll find an Añejo that’s only been aged for 12 months).

If an ‘Añejo’ has been aged 4 years or more, it’s always 100 percent agave.

About 30 species of agave have been certified to make mezcal in seven Mexican states per the government’s appellation ordinance. Oaxaca is the main production center with 570 out of the 625 mezcal distilleries in Mexico. You’ll also find mezcals from Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, San Luis Potosí, Tamaulipas, and Zacatecas.

Cheech Marin’s Tres Papalote is the perfect example of a boutique and artisanal mezcal that champions quality over quantity. Marin proudly told us that “the distillers use a third distillation for purity reasons.” He continues on that “Tres Papalote only uses a wild agave called ‘cupreata’ which only grows in Guerrero” and that the mezcal is still handmade. That third distillation is reminiscent of Irish whiskey and gives this mezcal a refinement that mellows the alcohol taste, making it a smokey, smooth ride.


Cheech Marin Is Here To Give You A Gateway Guide To Mezcal

When Cheech Marin got into the alcohol game he wanted to do something special. He didn’t just want to peddle another wine or beer that wouldn’t mean anything to him culturally. Instead, he went for something that he could connect to on a deeper level: mezcal.

It wasn’t all about history for Cheech, though. He was also excited about mezcal’s taste. He wanted to surprise people with a liquor as smoky as his film resume. The result? Tres Papalote Mezcal — which is unusually smooth, especially for a spirit with 46% alcohol, but maintains mezcal’s trademark flavors.

“We’re in a changing time when it comes to flavor,” Marin told Uproxx. “We’re in a generation with both millennials and older people looking for big tastes — so I feel like it’s a wide open time for mezcal.”

We asked the film legend for help navigating this lesser known of the agave-based spirits.

WHAT IS MEZCAL?

Marin was first approached about selling an alcohol a few years ago, when a team of investors pitched him on wine. When he passed, an associate asked “how about a tequila?” Marin wasn’t impressed, telling us, “Everyone’s doing tequila out there. But it crossed my mind, ‘Hey there’s not a lot of mezcal out here and people hardly know what it is.'”

He’s right, in a world in love with tequila, mezcal’s unique history is often lost — which is a shame, because it’s fascinating:

Ages ago, when the Spanish Conquistadors landed in Mesoamerica they were greeted with a fermented, slightly alcoholic drink called pulque. The fermented drink was thick, creamy, and a little sour — not really the Spaniards cup of tea. But the Spaniards had shown up with pot stills to make spirits from sugar cane, just as they’d already started to do in the the Caribbean. Versions of this distilled cane drink still exist around the Caribbean, South America, and Central America, called aquardiente (literally fire water).

But Mexico wasn’t covered in sugar cane, it was covered in agave. And when the rum ran out, they started tinkering with the local pulque and ended up inventing mezcal. Later, Mezcal got big production boost when Spain’s crown forbade their colonies from grape-based alcohol production, so as not to disrupt vineyards and producers back home. Suddenly, the spirit became a major focus of growers and distillers throughout Mexico.

HOW IT’S MADE

Once Marin settled on mezcal, he found the battle to have people take note to be a little harder than he expected. “People go ‘Oh, I like your tequila!’ and, man, I have to always correct them, ‘No … It’s mezcal.’ That’s because mezcal doesn’t have a face, you know. There’s nobody to speak for it — there’s no George Clooney saying ‘Hey! Drink this.'”

He sees his own role as a sort of mezcal ambassador, here to tell people: “Number one, it doesn’t come with a worm. And number two, it doesn’t taste like tequila.”

What separates mezcal is the plant involved in the mash, distillation, and aging processes. The spirit began as a small batch production and remains largely that to this day. Originally, it was made from almost any agave plant — either wild or cultivated. This means that tequila, which is made solely from blue agave, is a type of mezcal.

The agave plants are generally grown for 12-15 years before the piña, or heart, of the plant is harvested by hand. Next, the piñas are loaded into a large pit oven heated with hot stones then covered up to smoke and roast for about three days. This is another way mezcal differs from tequila — which is roasted in clay ovens above ground, sans smoke (generally).

Once the piñas are properly roasted a mash is made by crushing the still hot agave with a massive stone mill (traditionally pulled by a horse). That mash is transferred to a barrel and water is added. This is where the initial fermentation takes place. The mash is filtered and transferred to a pot still (or a clay still in some cases) and distilled twice to get the alcohol content to around 55 percent.

At this point, there are some interesting varietals that enter the mix. First, during the fermentation and distillation spices, fruits, herbs, and even chicken breasts can be added to make different ‘flavored’ mezcals. As with any alcohol, mezcal doesn’t necessarily have to be aged. The inherent smokey notes are forged in the pit while roasting. But, again, as with most alcohols, the aging of mezcal is where the smoothness comes from.

A quick aging primer:

‘Dorado’ is un-aged mezcal with a color additive giving it a golden hue. The coloring agent is often added to mezcals that aren’t pure — which mean they have at least 80 percent agave and 20 percent other grain spirits or other agave distillates. Generally speaking, varietals above a ‘Dorado’ are going to be 100 percent agave. Always peruse the label to figure out what you’re dealing with when it comes to agave purity.

‘Joven’ means un-aged/young mezcal.

‘Reposado’ or ‘añejado’ are aged up to nine months in a barrel.

‘Añejo’ is barrel-aged generally from 18 months to three years (sometimes you’ll find an Añejo that’s only been aged for 12 months).

If an ‘Añejo’ has been aged 4 years or more, it’s always 100 percent agave.

About 30 species of agave have been certified to make mezcal in seven Mexican states per the government’s appellation ordinance. Oaxaca is the main production center with 570 out of the 625 mezcal distilleries in Mexico. You’ll also find mezcals from Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, San Luis Potosí, Tamaulipas, and Zacatecas.

Cheech Marin’s Tres Papalote is the perfect example of a boutique and artisanal mezcal that champions quality over quantity. Marin proudly told us that “the distillers use a third distillation for purity reasons.” He continues on that “Tres Papalote only uses a wild agave called ‘cupreata’ which only grows in Guerrero” and that the mezcal is still handmade. That third distillation is reminiscent of Irish whiskey and gives this mezcal a refinement that mellows the alcohol taste, making it a smokey, smooth ride.


Watch the video: Πρωτοβουλίες ΗΠΑ-Βρετανίας για γεφυροποίηση των διαφορών (May 2022).


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