What is Mezcal?
Mezcal (or mescal) (/mɛsˈkæl) is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from any type of agave plant native to Mexico. The word mezcal comes from the language of the Aztecs called Nahuatl, metl [met͡ɬ] and ixcalli [iʃˈkalːi], which means "oven-cooked agave." The agave grows in many parts of Mexico, though most mezcal is made in Oaxaca. The agave plants are harvested after about eight years. During harvest, the leaves are cut off leaving simply the Piña, which is then roasted at the “palenques” in an “horno” (oven) for 2-3 days dug into the ground.
Today, mezcal is still made from the heart of the agave plant, called the piña, much the same way it was over 400 years ago, in most places. In Mexico, mezcal is generally consumed straight and has a strong smoky flavor. Though mezcal is not as popular as tequila (explicitly made from the blue agave in select regions of the country), Mexico does export the product, mostly to Japan and the United States, and exports are growing.