We knew we had to write about mezcal after having spent an evening at Salmuera, a Latin restaurant and mezcalaria in Amsterdam. It was a typical Dutch november day, the kind where you accept the weather as it is and head out anyways. Salmuera quickly makes you forget the hardship of the rain and cold wind you had to endure on your way over there. The place was packed with a party-on atmosphere more than anything else. The food is great and worth a separate article in the future. Looking around we saw people having a great time at every single table. There wasn’t a person we saw who was not engaged in a conversation, smiling, eating and drinking. It seemed like the good life had concentrated itself in this place. It was a wonderful night. It was also the night we fell in love with mezcal.
Mezcal is made, like tequila, from the agave plant, which is native to Mexico. Where tequila is made specifically of the blue agave (or agave tequilana) plant, mezcal is made from over 30 different agave species, although in reality there are around 7 agave plants most used. Mezcal has traditionally been handcrafted by small-scale producers using methods that have been passed down from generation to generation. So if you drink mezcal, you know that you are drinking something quite unique and with a history.
There are two types of mezcal: those made 100% of the agave plant and those with at least 80% agave and mixed with other ingredients. Both have four categories: white mezcal is clear and not aged, golden (dorado) is not aged but a colouring agent is added, aged (reposed or añejado) has been aged in wood barrels between two to nine months and the añejo is aged for a minimum of 12 months. If the añejo is of 100% agave, it is typically aged for around 4 years.
The nice thing about the taste of mezcal is that is has a strong smoky flavour. We love the taste but also the variety. You can try mezcal made of different agave plants, aged or non-aged, 100% pure or mixed. There are over 150 brands to choose from and most producers have their own unique way of producing the drink. So take your time and find your favourite, like you would find your favourite scotch, wine or beer.
We recommend to drink it straight, to really get a feel for the taste. But mezcal can also be used for cocktails. Be aware that the alcohol level in mezcal is quite high (up to 55%), so as always, drink responsibly and enjoy!