The popularity of tequilas and mezcals in San Francisco is amazing right now. With hot restaurants like Loló and La Urbana focusing their bar program on Mexico’s agave plants, it doesn’t seem to look like it’s slowing down anytime soon. For the novice though, mezcals and tequilas seem like the same spirit. This is true in that they are both made from the agave plant, but their production method and their varieties of agave are very different.
So, what are the differences between tequilas and mezcals? There are three major differences:
- Regionality: Tequila has to be made in the states of Jalisco, Nayarit, and Tampaulipas, with the majority of tequila production happening in Jalisco. Mezcal can be produced in most Mexican states, with Oaxaca being the main production center.
- Agave: Tequila can only be made with Agave Tequilana Weber, aka Blue Agave. Mezcal, however, can be made from over 30 different varieties, including Espadin and Blue Agave. Because of this, mezcals vary in flavor much more than tequilas do.
- Process: The agaves used in tequila are baked in steam ovens, or what is essentially an industrial pressure cooker. With mezcal, the agaves are roasted in an underground pit filled with wood and volcanic rocks, which gives mescal its distinct smoky flavor.
Because summer is synonymous with porch sitting and park picnic-ing, we asked our resident bartender, Kitty Galisia, to create two seasonal cocktails to celebrate these special spirits. A seasoned bar veteran and mixologist, Kitty learned the art of mixology at the hands of local cocktail legends like Thad Vogler, Erik Adkins, and the team at NOPA (where Kitty tended bar for nearly a decade). Kitty’s cocktail philosophy is to make each drink its own, so that every sip takes you to a special time and place. Visit our recipes page to keep your summer weekend vibes rolling with these two agave-inspired cocktails, and picture yourself out with your friends, sipping these fun, flirty drinks.
Bit of a bartender yourself? Check out our favorite tequilas and mezcals in the Markets:
*Mezcal Vago Ensamble en Barro Bi-Rite | $99.99*
Our first-ever exclusive mezcal made for us by Mezcal Vago in limited quantity! This is one-of-a-kind ensemblage (blend) made with three agave sub-varieties. They are roasted, fermented and distilled together in Olla de Barro (clay pots) to produce a wonderfully complex mezcal.
Del Maguey Chichicapa Mezcal | $74.99
One of the top villages in Oaxaca, Chichicapa shows beatutiful vegetal notes with flavors of green citrus rinds, pepper, and smoke.
Cimarón Reposado Tequila | $21.99
Single estate agave from one of Jalisco’s largest and renowned farmers means the best value in traditional tequila. Three to six months in white oak barrels takes the purity of blanco and splashes it with the nuance of age.
Tequila Ocho Blanco | $54.99
Tequila Ocho are vintage designated tequilas that come from a single estate with its own micro-climate, making these the most terroir-driven tequilas in the market. Pair this with Combier Triple Sec for a top shelf margarita.