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Discover the Artisanal Mezcal from Oaxaca

By Ale Coyote |

Artisanal mezcal from Oaxaca is known as the “drink from the heavens”. Toast with this alcoholic beverage in your next trip to Mexico. 

The Tradition of Artisanal Mezcal from Oaxaca

If you want a hip touristic experience, we recommend trying the artisanal mezcal from Oaxaca. It’s an alcoholic beverage from Mexico with a high alcohol content. Despite its long historic tradition, lately it has become very popular in high-end restaurants. This is the reason why we’re dedicating this article to sharing with you the importance of this product that comes from the agave plant. Still today, it has an artisanal production. The history of mezcal, its origin and its unique taste are part of an experience that you should try when traveling to Oaxaca.

Origin of the Artisanal Mezcal from Oaxaca

This alcoholic beverage from Oaxaca comes from the agave. Said plant grows in arid landscapes, usually in the northern Mexican states. Yet it can also be found  in Oaxaca, south of Mexico. It’s important to say that there are different types of agave plants. Thus, there are tequila, pulque and mezcal agave plants. All of them undergo a process of distillation and fermentation to produce several traditional alcoholic beverages in Mexico. Among them you can have tequila, pulque and artisanal mezcal from Oaxaca.

Artisanal Mezcal from Oaxaca a drink from the heavens

The production of artisanal mezcal from Oaxaca dates back to Pre-hispanic times, around 400 b.C. Traces of burned maguey have been found in the area of Oaxaca. They’re almost 10,000 years old! They’ve been found together with distillation instruments of that time.

People say that mezcal is a “drink from the heavens”. Why? There’s a legend that says that mezcal originated from a ray of lightning that fell from the heavens and struck an agave plant. The phenomenon caused the first tatema or burning of the maguey from which the alcoholic beverage oozed.

How is artisanal mezcal from Oaxaca made?

Mezcal is mainly produced in Oaxaca, and it’s very coveted due to its artisanal production. It requires a procedure in which the agave plants are subject to high heat in furnaces. Then, the sugar cane pulp is removed in order to squeeze the juice from it. For this, they use special grinders. Next, the pulp is poured in vats to favor fermentation. This step is essential because it defines the type of alcoholic beverage to be obtained. If instead of wooden tubs the mezcal is placed in containers made of leather or cement the result will be completely different. In this case, not only the taste will vary, but also the color and aroma. Finally, the liquid is subject to distillation in stills or distillation columns. That’s when it’s added with alcohol in order to help it achieve a better taste.

In Oaxaca there are several families that are dedicated to the production of mezcal. Even though they all follow the same processes, the distillation instruments and the type of furnaces they use may vary. Evidently, each family adds their own secret touch to the alcoholic beverage in order to give it a unique taste.

What does Artisanal Mezcal from Oaxaca taste like?

If this is your first time tasting artisanal mezcal from Oaxaca, experts recommend giving small sips or “kisses”. This will help you to recognize its flavor and texture.

You’ll notice a strong alcohol flavor in your tongue. Then, as you allow the liquid to flood your mouth, you’ll notice smoked notes that come from the heating process.

You’ll discover that many people combine a shot of this alcoholic beverage with lemon and maguey worm salt. Even if the locals will tell you that this is not the correct way to drink mezcal, DINKtravelers, as your world travel guide, recommends trying it like this if it’s the first time you taste it.

According to locals, the best mezcal is sold in crystal bottles and not clay recipients. That’s because clay may release chemicals that could alter the taste of this alcoholic beverage.

Varieties of Artisanal Mezcal from Oaxaca

Apart from its original version, you can taste artisanal mezcal from Oaxaca in the form of liquors. There are different flavors including coconut, strawberry, coffee and peanuts, among others. And be warned: they hold mezcal tastings in almost all the local shops. However, after trying so many varieties you could feel quite tipsy.

Touristic Route to Discover Artisanal Mezcal from Oaxaca

Oaxaca is a region with a great cultural offer and amazing Mexican cuisine.  There you can visit from archeological sites such as Monte Alban to towns specialized in black pottery artwork, like Coyotepec. Take advantage of your trip to this beautiful state of Mexico by visiting the towns that specialize in the production of artisanal mezcal from Oaxaca. Plan your days by following the Tourist Route “Caminos del Mezcal” (Mezcal Roads).

The Caminos del Mezcal route will take you to different municipalities of Oaxaca. Some of them are Santa Maria del Tule, San Jerónimo Tlacochahuaya, Teotitlan del Valle, Tlacolula de Matamoros, San Pablo Villa de Mitla and Santiago Matatlán. In each place, you’ll discover different ways of producing artisanal mezcal from Oaxaca.

All the municipalities include natural, archaeological and cultural landmarks. For example, in Santa Maria del Tule you can visit the Tule Tree, one of the oldest known trees in the world. It’s also one of the widest trees with 58 meters in diameter (190 feet).

In your next trip to Mexico, remember that apart from tequila there are other delicious traditional alcoholic beverages. One of them is artisanal mezcal from Oaxaca. Try it and discover that it’s about to become the protagonists of your dinner parties.