There are a lot of different varieties of the agave plant and many of them can be used to make Mexico’s most popular liquor, mezcal. But when it comes to tequila, there can be only one agave plant that will do, the blue agave.
The agave plant has over 200 different varieties, but only 30 of them are used for mezcal production, the regulated liquor in Mexico. Mezcal production isn’t for the impatient. Growing the agave plants can take anywhere from 7 to 15 years before they are mature enough to harvest, depending on the variety, location and other factors. So, there is a long wait before even starting on this adventure.
The Mexican government has regulations in place to control the production of mezcal. They allow for any agave plant to be used in its production, with one exception, the blue agave. That being said, there is a loophole. Some areas of Mexico are exempt from regulation and one of those areas is Jalisco. So, mezcal production in Jalisco can be done with the blue agave plant, the plant that is used in making tequila. Mezcal coming from the Oaxaca, Guerrero, Durango, San Luis Potosí and Zacatecas regions are going to be made with one of the other varieties, but in Jalisco mezcal is probably going to be made from the blue variety.
Mezcal production tends to be a family business where the tradition is handed down from generation to generation over hundreds of years. It’ll involve the harvest of the agave plants and roasting them in earthen ovens to get mezcal’s unique, smoky taste. It is then juiced, distilled, distilled again and then it is usually left to age in wooden barrels for years.
If you’re thinking of turning that pointy leaf agave into an incredible mezcal beverage, it is going to take some time. It is a lot quicker to stop by Roberto’s Cantina, sit back and enjoy a few shots of blue agave mezcal from Jalisco.