Mezcal is a liquor similar to tequila, not surprising considering that both mezcal and tequila are made of the agave plant, also known as maguey. The only difference between them is that mezcal can be made from a variety of agaves, whereas tequila is made only from agave azul, hence the saying: ‘all tequilas are mezcals but not all mezcals are tequila…’
Mezcal is perhaps best known for having a worm in the bottle. According to a tequila importer I was talking to this was a publicity stunt to market a batch of mezcal that accidentally contained agave worms. Rather than throw it out, someone came up with the brilliant idea to imply that the worm was an aphrodisiac. The idea caught on, but if you don’t fancy worms then you should know that a lot of mezcal DOESN’T contain a worm.
Here is another saying about mezcal, ‘para todo mal, mezcal, y para todo bien también‘ (for everything bad, mezcal; for everything good as well).
Mezcal has smokiness to it that tequila doesn’t, and some brands are extremely smoky. If you happen to be in the state of Oaxaca, where the best mezcal comes from, we found that El Famoso Mezcal Anejo – 100% Agave one of the better brands to buy, with just a touch of the smokiness (and no worm!)