Once Upon a Time in Mexico
January 9, 2013
After a great many years of unwavering tequila devotion, I’ve recently begun to discover the magic of mezcal (aka, mescal). Tequila’s smokier cousin, it is often said that while all tequila is mezcal, not all mezcal is tequila. Both are distilled from the agave plant, but tequila uses the blue agave, while mezcal comes from the espadin variety. And the differences don’t end there: in tequila the agave is steamed, while for mezcal it is roasted, which gives it a slightly different flavor profile. It’s that smokiness that has made it a particularly appealing sipper (we like a few glugs of it on the rocks with a squeeze of lime) in these colder months. The espadin agave Sombra uses for their mezcal emanates from the high Sierra of Oaxaca, specifically the tiny village of San Juan nestled at 8,000 feet. It is there that the agave for this delightful micro-batch single village spirit is cultivated, and the distillation process carried out—Sombra abides by the historical method, a fascinating process, one step of which, involves laying the agave hearts over rocks that have been heated by an oak fire, then covering them in banana leaves and a layer of earth. That earthiness, along with a touch of citrus and spice, and the overarching smokiness makes for one seriously elegant mezcal.