Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Mezcal vs. Tequila
At some point on the road to becoming an expert the fun gets out, sticks out its thumb and hitches a ride back into the world of innocence and adventure.
I never want to be an expert on Mezcal or talk too much about it. I just want to drink it (preferably in the country of it’s production). I know enough about Mezcal to tell you that Mezcal she is the older wiser sister to her brother Tequila. The cool older sister, the one who in the ninth grade read Carlos Castanada, ate hallucinogens, and began studying transcendental meditation and shamanism. Her books were her distraction while her younger brother Tequila was all about tits, ass and torque.
On a date with Tequila, you zoom through the night; talk shit, drive fast and fuck faster. Mezcal, a romantic, leads her love along a secret, moon lit, silver ribbon tributary, fucks her nice and slow as luminous moon water laps the damp river rocks wrapped in soft moss.
Tequila wakes up the morning after , eats a greasy breakfast, sheds a nasty dump, and itches to do it all over again. Mezcal wakes up, fucks again, falls asleep, wakes up, grabs the book off her nightstand and spends the rest of the morning reading and drinking coffee. It’s like my friend Todd ( a Mezcal importer) said “Mezcal is to mushrooms as Tequila is to cocaine.” I fucking hate cocaine, I like Tequila but I love Mezcal.
Over the past 80,000 years two great plant consciousness’s, corn and maguey, battled for dominance in Mesoamerica. Corn is currently winning the battle, but much like dogs, corn depends on humans for its survival. Maguey, no man it’s master, is rouge and can survive and thrive without the hands of man. Before corn manipulated the Pueblos, Incas, Maya and Aztecs into becoming agriculturalists and disciples, the maguey plant was the most versatile and widely exploited plant in pre-Hispanic Mexico. From its flesh came materials to build homes, get drunk (slowly), sew up clothes, and eat. Like the return of the bison, in time, maguey, with its versatile independence, will once more dominate the landscape of the southwestern Americas. Until then we do corn’s bidding.
Both Mezcal and Tequila are made from the maguey plant,. Maguey, also known as agave is a member of the lily family. Maguey only blossoms when its own death is imminent. The flower, a mortal flag signaling its capitulation to this sun life, opens to be pollinated by bees, bats and hummingbirds. The plant then dies and is absorbed once again by the earth to be reduced, reused and recycled. This death offering is a well-known symbol in Mexico; sacrifice perpetuates life.
Although both Mezcal and Tequila are made from the maguey plant, Tequila’s industrialized production shortcuts, mono-cropping and shrewd market dominance anger its spirit. This anger permeates into the consumer resulting in punchy/kicky drunks who do dumb, regrettable shit. Alternatively there is Mezcal, which must be made with 100% agave and bottled in Mexico, Tequila can be cut with up to 51% other alcohols, and can be bottled outside of Mexico. There are 30 different maguey plants that can be used to make Mezcal. Tequila is shackled to being produced by only one type of maguey “blue agave”. Mezcal celebrates the vibrancy of nature by allowing for biodiversity. The production of Tequila abominates nature with it’s forced mono-cropping.
Tequila is a brand that allows for its mass production. There are100% agave Tequilas on the market of great quality and produced with respect to tradition by wonderful passionate people, yet they are bound to the angry spirit of the entirety of the brand. Mezcal is not a brand it is a force.
…wait, at what point on the road to becoming an expert did you get out Daniel? And what about not talking about it too much? You are pontificating on Mezcal like a pinché gringo. What’d you do an “extensive” google search on the topic? Neat. Tell us why is Mezcal magic.
From valleys Mezcal speaks of the earth and fire, muscles, machetes and mules. Placed on pine bars in dry mountain towns Mezcal tells stories of the sun and moon. In cities it shares love stories and mollifies the pain of war and loss. Mezcal is the combined spirit of the mighty maguey, the mottled red soil of Mexico, the indefatigable Mexican laborer, and the fornicating Spaniard’s who first distilled it.
The first sip of Mezcal burns a red hot line from tongue to tummy like Cortez’s march through Mexico to overthrow the Aztec empire. If you don’t know where the bottom of your stomach lies the first sip of Mezcal will show you. The second sip releases the smoke. By the third sip earth notes are revealed in whispers of the buried Mezcaleros who finally know the secrets of the subsoil that held the roots and worms.
Mezcal is earth, animal, smoke, stone and people/love/magic. By paying good money for it we help maintain a way of life that goes back five hundred years. It is produced in small quite towns in the high hills outside of Oaxaca where men ride bikes and dogs don’t do much. In little villages where kids walk down dusty roads in school uniforms and smile teasingly at lanky white guys that come to “experience Mezcal”. Where women pat tortillas into shape and cook them quickly on a wood fired stovetops while clothes dry on a line and babies wrapped in soft shawls sleep contentedly. Mezcal is the spirit of Mexico.