Updated at: 25-07-2023 - By: John Lau

Unsure if you should pour a glass of Mezcal or Tequila?

Our article sheds light on unique characteristics that distinguish Mezcal from Tequila, from their historyflavor profiles to distillation methods, equipping you with knowledge to make an informed choice next time you fancy a Mexican-inspired cocktail.

Let’s dive in, shall we?.

What Makes Mezcal and Tequila Different

mezcal vs tequila (1)

Agave varieties used

Navigating the world of Mexican spirits, it’s essential to understand that agave is key in this aromatic journey.

However, not all agaves are created equal. The distinct plant types used for mezcal and tequila production contribute significantly to their unique flavor profiles.

Typically, tequila producers rely solely on one specific species – Blue Weber agave – renowned for its subtly sweet undertones that complement the fiery spirit perfectly.

Conversely, Mezcal embraces diversity with open arms by allowing any variety of agave for distillation.

In fact, up to 50 different species can be utilized in mezcal production!

This gives each bottle an array of exotic flavors ranging from earthy tones to fruity notes underlined by a signature smoky kick that sets mezcal apart from other distilled liquors.

Agave varieties really do matter when you appreciate these traditional Mexican drinks; they gift you with a rich and unrepeatable tasting experience every time your lips meet the glass.

Regional differences

Mezcal and tequila not only differ in terms of flavor, but also in their regional origins.

Mezcal is primarily produced in the Oaxaca region of Mexico, where it has been crafted for centuries using traditional methods passed down through generations.

This region is known for its diverse microclimates and rich soil, which contribute to the unique flavors found in mezcal.

On the other hand, tequila comes exclusively from specific regions within Mexico.

The majority of tequila production occurs in the state of Jalisco, as well as some parts of Guanajuato, Michoacán, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas.

These regions are characterized by their volcanic soils and highland areas that provide optimal conditions for growing Blue Weber agave – the only variety used to produce tequila.

Each region’s distinct climate and soil composition play a significant role in shaping the taste profiles of mezcal and tequila.

While mezcal showcases earthy notes with hints of smoke due to its cooking process involving underground pits or ovens lined with volcanic rocks, tequila tends to have a spicier character with citrus undertones.

Distillation methods

Mezcal and tequila differ not only in their agave varieties but also in their distillation methods.

Mezcal is traditionally made using a rustic process where the agave hearts, or “piñas,” are cooked inside earthen pits filled with hot rocks.

The pit is then covered with layers of earth and left to roast for several days. This cooking method gives mezcal its distinct smoky flavor.

Afterward, the cooked piñas are crushed and fermented before being distilled in copper stills.

On the other hand, tequila production follows a more modern approach called the “Tahona” process or roller mill method.

The harvested Blue Weber agave plants are steamed or baked, allowing for easier extraction of juices from their cores.

These juices are then mixed with water and fermented before undergoing distillation in either stainless steel or copper stills.

Flavor profiles

Mezcal and tequila have distinct flavor profiles that set them apart. Mezcal is known for its strong, smoky taste, which comes from the cooking process where the agave plants are roasted in pits in the ground before being fermented and distilled.

This gives mezcal a rich and earthy flavor, with hints of smoke and sometimes even a touch of sweetness.

On the other hand, tequila has a spicier flavor profile. It is often described as having notes of pepper or spice, along with some underlying sweetness. Tequila gets its flavor from the Blue Weber agave plant, which is steamed instead of being roasted like in mezcal production.

So if you prefer bold and smoky flavors with a touch of sweetness, then mezcal might be your spirit of choice. But if you enjoy a spicier taste with some hints of sweetness mixed in, then tequila could be more up your alley.

How to Enjoy Mezcal and Tequila

mezcal vs tequila (2)

To fully enjoy mezcal and tequila, there are various ways to consume them, including sipping them neat or on the rocks, mixing them in cocktails, or using them as a base for creative drink combinations.

Experiment with different pairings and discover your preferred flavor combinations.

Explore tasting notes to enhance your experience and try out recommended brands for an authentic taste of Mexico’s finest spirits.

Different ways of consuming

  1. Sipping it neat: Enjoy the rich flavors of mezcal or tequila by savoring it slowly, sip by sip. Let the complex notes unfold on your palate, from the smoky undertones of mezcal to the spiciness of tequila.
  2. Mixing cocktails: Both mezcal and tequila are versatile spirits that lend themselves well to a variety of cocktails. Try a classic margarita with tequila, or explore mezcal’s unique flavors in a smoky mezcal mule or a spicy mezcal paloma.
  3. Pairing with food: Enhance your dining experience by pairing mezcal or tequila with complementary dishes. The smokiness of mezcal pairs well with grilled meats, while the spiciness of tequila complements Mexican cuisine like tacos and enchiladas.
  4. Tasting flights: Discover the nuances between different brands and varieties by organizing a tasting flight. Sample different expressions of mezcal or tequila side by side to appreciate their distinct flavor profiles.
  5. Infusing flavors: Get creative and infuse your own flavors into homemade mezcal or tequila. Experiment with fruits, spices, or herbs to add a personal touch and create unique cocktails.
  6. Crafting artisanal cocktails: Embrace the craft cocktail movement by using high-quality ingredients in your mezcal or tequila creations. Fresh juices, homemade syrups, and artisanal bitters can elevate your drink to new heights.
  7. Exploring agave-based liqueurs: Expand your horizons beyond just mezcal and tequila by exploring other agave-based liqueurs like raicilla, sotol, or bacanora. Each has its own distinct character worth exploring.
  8. Sampling aged versions: Discover the complexities that come with aging both mezcal and tequila in oak barrels. Aged expressions offer deeper flavors and smoother finishes that can be enjoyed on their own or in cocktails.

Pairings and cocktails

Pairings and cocktails are an important aspect of enjoying mezcal and tequila.

Here are some ideas to enhance your drinking experience:

  1. Classic Margarita: Mix tequila with fresh lime juice, triple sec, and a touch of agave syrup for a refreshing cocktail that perfectly complements the spirit’s vibrant flavors.
  2. Mezcal Negroni: Give the traditional Negroni a smoky twist by replacing gin with mezcal. Combine equal parts mezcal, Campari, and sweet vermouth for a unique and complex drink.
  3. Spicy Paloma: For those who enjoy a little heat, mix tequila with grapefruit juice, lime juice, simple syrup, and muddled jalapenos for a spicy and citrusy cocktail.
  4. Mezcal Old Fashioned: Swap out bourbon for mezcal in this classic cocktail. Muddle sugar with bitters, add mezcal, ice cubes, and garnish with an orange twist for a sophisticated drink with a smoky twist.
  5. Tequila Sunrise: This colorful cocktail combines tequila, orange juice, and grenadine syrup in layers for a visually appealing drink that’s perfect for brunch or poolside sipping.
  6. Mezcal Sangria: Add depth to traditional sangria by substituting red wine with mezcal. Combine mezcal, red wine, orange liqueur, fruit juices (such as orange and apple), chopped fruits like apples and oranges, along with some club soda for effervescence.
  7. Tequila Moscow Mule: Give the classic Moscow Mule a Mexican spin by replacing vodka with tequila. Mix tequila with lime juice and ginger beer over ice for a refreshing and slightly tangy cocktail.
  8. Smoky Martini: Create an unconventional martini using mezcal instead of gin or vodka. Combine mezcal with dry vermouth in a shaker filled with ice, strain into a chilled martini glass, and garnish with a lemon twist for a smoky and sophisticated cocktail.

Tasting notes and recommendations

When it comes to tasting mezcal and tequila, there are a few notes to keep in mind. Mezcal is known for its strong smoky flavor, often described as having hints of earthiness and a robust character that lingers on the palate.

Tequila, on the other hand, has a spicier profile with sweet undertones that can vary depending on the aging process.

For those new to mezcal, it’s recommended to start with joven (young) varieties which showcase the unique flavors of agave without being overly intense.

As you become more adventurous, exploring reposado and añejo options will introduce you to rich caramel notes and complexity brought about by oak barrel aging.

With tequila, blanco (unaged) expressions offer fresh citrus flavors perfect for sipping or mixing into cocktails like margaritas.

Mezcal vs Tequila: Which One Should You Choose?

mezcal vs tequila (3)

Factors to consider

Here are some key points to keep in mind:

  1. Agave Variety: Mezcal can be made from various species of agave plants, while tequila is exclusively made from Blue Weber agave. Consider if you prefer the unique flavors that different agave varieties bring to each spirit.
  2. Flavor Profiles: Mezcal is known for its distinct smoky flavor, which comes from cooking the agave in pits in the ground. On the other hand, tequila has a spicier taste profile. Think about which flavor profile appeals more to your palate.
  3. Production Methods: Mezcal is traditionally produced using artisanal methods, often cooked in underground pits and distilled in small batches. Tequila, on the other hand, follows more standardized industrial production processes. Consider if you value the traditional craftsmanship of mezcal or the consistency of tequila’s production methods.
  4. Price Range and Availability: Mezcal tends to be more expensive than tequila due to its artisanal production methods and limited availability. Consider your budget and accessibility when making a choice.
  5. Personal Preferences: Ultimately, your personal taste preferences should play a significant role in deciding between mezcal and tequila. You may want to try both spirits at different occasions or explore different brands within each category to find the one that resonates with you.

Personal preferences

When it comes to choosing between mezcal and tequila, personal preferences play a significant role. Both spirits have their unique qualities and flavors, so it ultimately depends on what you enjoy.

If you prefer a bold and smoky taste, then mezcal might be the right choice for you. Mezcal’s earthy undertones and distinct smokiness can be an acquired taste that appeals to those who enjoy more complex flavor profiles.

On the other hand, if you prefer a spicier flavor with sweet undertones, tequila might be your go-to spirit.

Tequila’s smoothness combined with its spicy kick makes it a popular choice for cocktails or sipping on its own.

Exploring the unique qualities of each spirit

Mezcal and tequila, both Mexican spirits made from the agave plant, offer unique qualities that set them apart.

Mezcal is known for its strong smoky taste, which comes from being cooked in pits in the ground during production.

On the other hand, tequila has a spicier flavor profile that adds a kick to any drink. One key difference between these two liquors is the variety of agave used – mezcal can be produced from up to 50 species of agave, while tequila can only be made from Blue Weber agave.

So if you’re looking for that distinct smoky flavor with sweet undertones, mezcal might be your go-to choice. But if you prefer something with a spicy edge, then tequila should definitely be on your radar.


In conclusion, both mezcal and tequila offer unique flavors and cultural significance that make them stand out in the world of agave spirits.

Whether you prefer the smoky complexity of mezcal or the spicy kick of tequila, there’s no denying the rich history and craftsmanship behind these Mexican liquors.

So next time you’re in the mood for a taste of Mexico, why not try both and see which one truly speaks to your palate?