Tequila vs Mezcal

By Viator, December 2013

3.5 4 Reviews | Add your review

Tequila is Mexico’s most famous spirit, but mescal, a lesser-known alcohol, is gaining popularity as well. While all tequilas are mezcals -- as mezcals simply refer to agave-based liquor -- not all mezcals are tequilas. There are three key differences between the two.

For one, they are produced in different regions of Mexico, with tequila mainly produced in Jalisco and mezcal mainly produced in Oaxaca. Additionally, by law tequila can only be made using Blue Agave, while mezcal can be made with about 30 separate varieties of agaves (including Blue Agave, although most are made using Agave Espadin). And lastly, tequila and mezcal are produced differently, as the pina -- the part of the agave left after the leaves have been removed -- is cooked differently. When making tequila, the pina is typically cooked in an autoclave before being shredded and fermented. On the other hand, for mezcal it is usually cooked underground using volcanic rock and wood, which is why most mezcals have a very smokey flavor. Interestingly, the notorious worm people often talk about when discussing tequila is actually sometimes found in mezcal  but almost never found in tequila.

There are also a number of different traditions that revolve around the two different types of spirits. Let’s start with tequila. While most people tend to do the salt-then-drink-then-lime routine when taking a tequila shot, some bars in Mexico will serve your shot in a traditional hollowed out bull horn vessel. This was once the standard, with the horns being filled with tequila then passed along quickly as there was only a limited supply -- which is how the tequila shot was born. Many Mexicans also enjoy sipping Sangrita -- a mixture of orange, lime, pomegranate and chili powder -- along with their tequila shot to cleanse their palate.

In terms of mezcal, the traditional way to drink it is with an orange wedge coated in worm salt -- a mixture of salt and ground gusano worm. Drink the mezcal then bite the orange.

While tequila and mescal both come from specific places, both can be found throughout Mexico. If you want to tour a distillery, you’ll need to travel to the source of your chosen spirit. Otherwise, the best education is earned by sampling.

Tours & Tickets

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Tequila Express: Guadalajara Tequila Train Tour with Tastings

4 star rating: Recommended 5 Reviews

Ride a traditional passenger train to Jalisco – one of the only tequila-producing regions of Mexico – and discover how the world’s tequila is made! You’ll ...  Read more

Location: Guadalajara, Mexico
Duration: 9-11 hours

From USD $199.99

Mazatlan Canopy Zipline Tour plus Mezcal Tasting

5 star rating: Highly Recommended 5 Reviews

See the jungle from a bird’s-eye view as you glide through a tropical forest along ziplines in the Sierra Madre foothills, east of Mazatlán. Afterward, ...  Read more

Location: Mazatlan, Mexico
Duration: 4-5 hours

From USD $74.99

Mazatlan ATV Adventure with Mezcal Tasting

Get your pulse racing on an ATV adventure through the foothills of the Sierra Madres outside of Mazatlán! After an exciting drive, celebrate your ride ...  Read more

Location: Mazatlan, Mexico
Duration: 4 hours (approx.)

From USD $74.99

Tlaquepaque Food Tour and Tequila Tasting

5 star rating: Highly Recommended 2 Reviews

Get acquainted with Tlaquepaque and its culinary traditions on this 3-hour food tour! Taste delicious local dishes and sample the tequila of Jalisco while ...  Read more

Location: Guadalajara, Mexico
Duration: 3 hours (approx.)

From USD $49.99

La Noria Blue Agave Mezcal Tour from Mazatlan

Explore the colonial village of La Noria, east of Mazatlán, to learn about the cultural traditions of rural Mexico. Peruse handmade wares such as leather ...  Read more

Location: Mazatlan, Mexico
Duration: 4 hours (approx.)

From USD $44.99

Mexico City Pub Crawl and Tequila Tour

Get a true taste of tequila – as well as Mexico City’s nightlife scene – on this four-hour guided pub crawl! You’ll have your pulse on the local bar scene as ...  Read more

Location: Mexico City, Mexico
Duration: 4 hours (approx.)

From USD $52.99

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