• AK
  • AZ
  • CA
  • CO
  • CT
  • DC
  • DE
  • FL
  • GA
  • HI
  • IA
  • ID
  • IL
  • IN
  • KS
  • KY
  • LA
  • MA
  • MD
  • MN
  • MO
  • MT
  • NE
  • NH
  • NJ
  • NM
  • NV
  • NY
  • ND
  • PA
  • RI
  • SC
  • TX
  • VA
  • WA
  • WI
  • WV
  • WY
  • | Craft Spirits Marketplace

    When it comes to agave-based alcohol, tequila has always reigned supreme in the United States. In 2021 alone, about 27 million cases of tequila were sold in the country, tripling the numbers of the year before. 

    However, mezcal is one drink that may give tequila a run for its money. Also made from agave, this distilled drink is becoming increasingly popular in the U.S.

    As mezcal grows in popularity, many people are wondering: what exactly is the difference between mezcal and tequila. Read on to find out more about each drink and find out once and for all just how different they really are. 

    Tequila and Mezcal: Are They The Same?

    The short answer to this question is this: tequila is a type of mezcal. 

    Essentially, all tequilas are mezcals but not all mezcals are tequilas; similar to how scotch and bourbon are both different types of whiskey. At its most basic, mezcal is defined as simply an agave-based liquor. 

    The differences between tequila and mezcal stem from several places, including:

    • Where they are produced
    • How they are distilled
    • What kind of agave is used to make them

    The process of making both tequila and mezcal is so particular that a single missing element will greatly alter the quality and flavor of the liquor, creating a completely different form of alcohol entirely. 

    Breaking Down the Mezcal-Making Process

    The process of making proper mezcal begins with agave. Once the rounded stem (or piña) is harvested, it is cooked to turn its internal starches into soft, thick sugars. Traditionally, the agave is roasted inside large pits, giving mezcal its distinctively smoky flavor. 

    Once the agave is roasted, it is then crushed into a pulp that is then stored for fermentation. After it has undergone its fermentation stage, the agave can be distilled into mezcal. From here, the mezcal can either be aged for up to several years or simply shipped off for enjoyment after a mere couple of months.

    The Main Differences Between Tequila and Mezcal

    While it may be clear now that tequila and mezcal are both made from the agave plant, you may still be wondering what exactly makes each drink different. And if tequila is simply a type of mezcal, what's keeping it from true mezcal status?

    The answer is a few things. Here are the distinctions between tequila and mezcal that make each one its own unique form of alcohol. 

    The Agave

    With any spirit, its quality starts with the ingredients that are used to make it—and mezcal is no exception. The specific type and quality of the agave are what gives mezcal its distinctive smoky flavor. 

    There are thirty unique types of agave that can be used to make mezcal. Out of these thirty varieties, the most commonly used are:

    • Tobalá
    • Tobaziche
    • Tepeztate
    • Arroqueño
    • Espadín

    These five types of agave alone account for up to 90% of all produced mezcal. 

    On the other hand, tequila can be made from only one type of agave: agave tequilana Weber (also known as Weber blue agave). This unique agave passes its own distinctive flavor onto tequila that makes it stand out from traditional mezcal.

    The Region

    In addition to their core ingredients, mezcal and tequila also differ in the regions where they can be made. 

    While there tends to be some regional overlap, mezcal is typically produced in nine specific areas of Mexico, including:

    • Durango
    • Guanajuato
    • Guerrero 
    • San Luis Potosi
    • Tamaulipas 
    • Zacatecas 
    • Michoacán 
    • Puebla
    • Oaxaca

    Tequila, however, is mainly produced in five places:

    • Michoacán 
    • Guanajuato 
    • Nayarit 
    • Tamaulipas
    • Jalisco

    The Process

    Mezcal and tequila are both produced from the piña of the agave plant. However, the process of making them differs greatly.

    While mezcal is roasted in large, firey pits filled with charcoal and wood, agave for tequila is prepared via steaming in massive industrial ovens. From here, tequila is often distilled two or three times before it is ready for consumption, while mezcal generally needs only one distillation. 

    Some modern producers of tequila and mezcal have opted to modernize their cooking processes, but the unique methods of roasting and steaming are still used to give each one its distinctive flavor. 

    The Classification

    Traditionally, both mezcal and tequila will be aged inside oak barrels once the distillation process is over. Through these aging processes, each one has developed its own system of classification. 

    In terms of tequila, the liquor comes in three classifications, depending on how long it spends aging.

    Mezcal's classifications differ slightly from tequila's. 

    • Joven (0-2 months)
    • Reposado (3-12 months)
    • Añejo (1 year or more)

    The Flavor

    One of the biggest differences between mezcal and tequila is also the most obvious: the taste. Both liquors have their own distinct flavor profiles that make them perfectly unique. 

    Tequila has a slightly earthy flavor that highlights the taste of the agave. It also has a tendency to give off the smallest bit of sweetness on its first sip. 

    Mezcal, however, is both subtler and bolder in its flavoring. Thanks to its traditional roasting process, mezcal has a smoky, woodsy flavor that almost comes across as savory at times. Mezcal can even contain fruity or floral notes that give it an even more layered flavor. 

    Tequila vs. Mezcal: Find Your Favorite With Mash&Grape

    Though tequila and mezcal may have their differences, both are crisp, refreshing spirits that are perfect for mixing up a cocktail or simply sipping on at the end of a long week. 

    At Mash&Grape, you can find all of your favorite spirits and liquors, from classic brands to undiscovered gems, all of the best bottles are finally available in one place. Visit Mash&Grape and discover firsthand the difference between tequila and mezcal today.