There is tequla and there is mezcal.
The difference is that tequila is made only from the blue agave plant and must come from the Tequila region of Mexico while mezcal is made from many different agave plants, comes from several areas of the country and is slow cooked, like a roasted chicken.
The basic taste difference is that mezcal is more smoky than tequila. And each has wide varieties of taste and quality. I was fortunate enough to hang out with the co-founder of a super high-qualty mezcal distiller in San Diego, Gaston Martinez of IZO Spirits and this is a review of its many products.
To be clear, the quality of these products is for sipping, not slamming. I’ll put it in terms of Jimmy Buffett songs for you Parrotheads out there. It’s more Banana Republic than Margaritaville.
Oh, and it must also be poined out that we went through the mezcals in a method that is explaned in the video because I was more focused on enjoying them – savoring, really – than taking detailed tasting notes. Hey, sometimes you have to enjoy the moment rather than being a nerdy reporter!
IZO Spirits makes nine mezcals – detailed descriptions of each are here – and one outstanding tequila. A lineup of ready-to-drink cocktails are on the shelf and will be released soon.
During the tasting, I was continually amazed at the smoothness of them and how each mezcal was distinctly different from the others. Some were fruity, some smoky, some earthy and some brought out the sweetness in the agave. Because of the quality put into making IZO Spirits, there was no “burn.”
The whole time, I was in complete Banana Republic mood. Tho as Gaston reminded me often, it would not take a whole lot to quickly flip into Margaritaville mode.
IZO Spirits are great as a solo act – like Buffett alone on stage with his guitar – or with an entire band behind it to to speak, such as in a margarita. This is something I confirmed later, after the tasting, by the way. IZO Spirits also has provided additional cocktail recipes below and its products are available nationwide, including at Total Wine & More and high-end liquor stores. The IZO website has a list of retailers.
- 2oz Sotol
- 0.25oz Cointreau
- 0.5oz Pineapple
- 0.5oz Lemon
- 0.25oz Simple
- 1 TBSP Fig Jam
- Combine and shake all ingredients. Double strain into a tall glass with
- pebble ice. Garnish with fresh rosemary and Mexican tarragon.
- 1.5oz Mezcal Ensamble
- 0.5oz Kalani Coconut
- 0.25oz Ancho Reyes Verde
- 0.5oz Lime
- 0.25oz Simple
- 2-3 Cucumber Slices
- Combine and shake all ingredients. Double strain into Collins glass.
- Garnish with cucumber ribbon and top with club soda.
- 1.5oz Mezcal Reposado
- 0.5oz Kin White Whiskey
- 0.75oz Chinola
- 0.75oz Orgeat
- 0.75oz Lime
- Combine and shake all ingredients. Double strain into rocks glass.