"Tequila is essentially a mezcal that comes from one particular varietal, the blue agave. But there are around 18 other types of agave distilled in Mexico, half of which are used to make what we call mezcal. Mezcal also is distilled using different production techniques," explains Eric Hiss, a travel and spirits writer and co-founder of global lifestyle website wandermelon.com. "It's much more hand-crafted." Hiss would know: He tracked down the spirit in Oaxaca, Mexico, and learned of its distillation process, which hasn't really changed over the course of about 500 years.
Why mezcal, and why now? Accessibility is one. Ron Cooper, founder of premium mezcal brand Del Maguey, has brought the spirit to the U.S. from remote villages.