Culture

Mexico’s Mezcal Is Taking Over The Globe And Here Are 17 Reasons Why

As the traditional Mexican saying goes: “For everything bad, mezcal.  For everything good, mezcal”. The word mezcal comes from the Nahuatl mexcalli, which means “cooked agave”. This drink is one of the most popular spirits in the world. From the depths of Southwest Mexico, mezcal has conquered top shelves in the best bars in the planet, and has established itself as a Latin American alternative to whisky. Yes, Ashley Judd, we are with you!

Here are some facts you might not know about one of Mexico’s best gastronomic exports!

1. Mezcal is sort of like tequila, but not quite (it is kind of the classy, distinguished cousin!)

Credit: Instagram. @laperlamezcaleria

One of the biggest misconceptions about mezcal is that it is the same as tequila. They are not. The difference lays in three factors: the type of plant, the region that it comes from the production methods. Mezcal is made from up to 28 different varieties of agave, while tequila can only be produces using blue agave. Tequila comes from Jalisco, while mezcal comes traditionally from the state of Oaxaca and some regions of Guerrero and Michoacan. Last but not least: mezcal is produces using traditional methods, while tequila is now being mass manufactured. 

2. Mezcal is as “organic” as it gets.

Credit: Instagram. @mezcal.xaman

Mezcal was fully “organic” before the word started to be used as a marketing ploy. Most mezcal producers follow the traditional method of using in-ground pits. The agave hearts, or piñas, are slowly grilled over hot rocks in a cone-shaped pit. A fire burns for about 24 hours to heat the stones that line the pit. The piñas are put into the pit and then covered with moist agave fiber. The piñas are then cooked for two or three days. Wow.

We mean, just look at this. Can’t get more “organic” than that! 

3. Mezcal production requires tons of patience: each agave plant takes up to a decade to grow.

Credit: Instagram. @frijolitomezcalero

 These baby agaves (cute, right?) are being planted in the Gracias a Dios palenque (the term used for agave fields) in Oaxaca. It will take years of the proper irrigation, light conditions and care for them to grow into usable plants from the Tobala variety.

These ones took seven years to grow. That is 61,320 days. That is a long but worthy wait for an elixir that will take a few hours to be consumed! 

4. These are the types of mezcal you can enjoy.

Credit: Instagram. @elgrifotulum

Just like any complex spirit, mezcal comes in different varieties. When you buy mezcal, you have to look out for the following words in the bottle: 

  • Type I: The Mezcal is made with 100% agave as a base. Some bottles simply read 100% agave. 
  • Type II: It has 80% agave and some other ingredients like cane sugar. 
  • White: A clear spirit that was aged for 2 months or less.
  • Dorado: A white mezcal with added color. 
  • Reposado:  been aged between two and nine months in wooden barrels.
  • Añejo: indicates that it has been aged a minimum of 1 year, but usually as long as even 2 to 3 years.
  • Joven: a young Mezcal, aged just for a few months.

5. Mezcals have a personal signature: yes, each maestro mezcalero has his own style.

Credit: Instagram. @mezcalalipus

When traditional mezcal makers, maestros mezcaleros, were approached by new companies to develop their product into something more marketable, differences between production methods began to be notices. This is why each mezcal maker has a signature style: how long the agave heads burn for, how much coal they use, how long the agave rests for… all of this gives each bottle a unique taste. 

6. Mezcal is as complex as whisky.

Credit: Instagram. @mezcalalipus

Just like experts can identify whisky depending on the region where it is produced (some even claim to be able to taste the salty ocean waters of Scotland), mezcal provides overlapping layers of floral and smoky notes. The best way to discover these subtle bursts of flavor: let the mezcal cover your whole tongue. 

7. The best way to drink it: sipping it, with orange slices and sal de gusano on the side.

Credit: Instagram. @calbarran

Yes, the traditional and best way to enjoy it is with a side of sliced oranges and sal de gusano, which is a mix of salt, dry chili and crushed worms. Yes, it is heavenly. 

8. The glorious state of Oaxaca is mezcal heaven.

Credit: Instagram. @mezcalalipus

Rural communities have been producing mezcal for decades. You can now book tours that take you to different regions of the state. You can really taste the terroir in every sip. 

9. Oaxacan biodiversity sustains mezcal production.

Credit: Instagram. @banhezmezcalartesanal

Guess what? Mezcal is the product of a carefully balanced ecosystem. Mess with it, and we will have no more mezcal. 

10. Mezcal producers fight against mass, mechanized methods.

Credit: Instagram. @graciasadiosmezcal

Everything is artisanal when it comes to mezcal production. Look at these two gorgeous ladies bottling mezcal by hand. Producers argue that mechanization would only mean low quality. Here, here!  

11. Not so long ago people bought mezcal by the gallon! (and some still do.)

Credit: Instagram. @bandita_chilanga

For years, mezcal was considered a poor alternative to tequila. It was considered a cheap drink and it took decades for it to be introduced into urban nightlife and high end hospitality. People would buy it in bulk. 

12. Mezcal can be good for your health (in moderation, of course.)

Credit: Instagram. @grubnwhereabouts

Mezcal helps with digestion (it is a great way to end a big meal) and helps regulate blood sugars. Of course, you have to drink it in moderation, no more that two drinks per day. 

13. Mezcal made a huge comeback in the late 2000s, when it became a hipster thing in Mexico City.

Credit: Instagram. @madremezca

Mexico City hipster culture is in big part responsible for the resurgence of mezcal. A big element of hipster life is finding more natural products, and mezcal is as natural as it gets. Mezcal has become a culinary cult with a following that has embellished it with amazing visuals. 

And of course hipster cocktail masters all throughout the globe have made mezcal a staple of innovation. 

14. The mezcal industry is a multimillion dollar affair.

Credit: Instagram. @laperlamezcaleria

Mezcal has expanded into the European and Asian markets at a fast pace. There are now 1,000 mezcal brands and Oaxaca just won a court case that determined that the spirit has appellation of origin rights, which means that it can only be produced in the region. Things are looking up!  

15. Top chefs are just IN LOVE with mezcal.

Credit: Instagram. @laperlamezcaleria

This is what superstar Mexican chef Enrique Olvera told The Latin Times he would have as a last meal: “Either quesadillas, avocado tacos or a combination of both, a cold beer and some good mezcal”. The sweet kiss of death with a hint of smoky mezcal? We’ll that that! 

16. The Breaking Bad duo is teaming up again to open a boutique mezcal label: Dos Hombres.

Credit: Instagram. @aaronpaul

Yes. Brian Cranston and Aaron Paul had Breaking Bad fans hyperventilating at the possibility of an onscreen reunion, but they are doing something better (at least in our books): they are traveling Oaxaca in search of the perfect mezcal master to open their own label. Hell to the yes. 

17. Not a drinker? Have a chocolate then!

Credit: Instagram. @kollarchocolates

Mezcal is now being used in creative ways by chefs and chocolatiers. These little bocaditos of sweetness look just amazing. 

Diego Luna Talks The Importance Of The Storytelling In ‘Narcos: Mexico’ And Why Mexico City Will Always Be His Home

Entertainment

Diego Luna Talks The Importance Of The Storytelling In ‘Narcos: Mexico’ And Why Mexico City Will Always Be His Home

Courtesy of Netflix

Netflix’s “Narcos: Mexico” Season 2 comes back to continue the story of enigmatic drug lord Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo and the subsequent rise and fall of the Guadalajara cartel he founded in the 1970s, with Diego Luna reprising his role as the mysterious Félix Gallardo.

The show depicts how Félix Gallardo’s eloquence and strategic thinking helped him attain a swift rise to the apex of the Mexican drug cartels. 

For a man of which not much is widely known about, Luna reveals in this exclusive interview with mitú how he was able to dive into his character.

When preparing for this role, Luna said there wasn’t as much research material about El Padrino (Félix Gallardo’s alias) compared to the personal stories of other real-life personalities, such as El Chapo. 

“The good thing for me in playing this role is this man was a very discreet person, he understood the power of discretion,” Luna says.

It was important to see what people said about him—what people say or feel when they were around this character, this perception of him helps a lot. I had to do research and see what was a common answer—people talk about how intelligent and precise and strategic he was, and that’s how I wanted to portray and build this character,” Luna told mitú over the phone. 

Season 2 picks up after the murder of DEA agent Kiki Camarena, with Félix Gallardo enjoying political protection at his palatial home in Mexico.

It’s evident in the beginning scenes of this second season that his rags-to-riches story is starting to unravel and a bit of paranoia is starting to set in that he may have a knife (or gun) at his back at any moment. 

A running allegory used by the characters’ dialogues of the Roman Empire’s eventual collapse and Julius Caesar’s ultimate end foreshadows what we all know will happen to Félix Gallardo—his drug empire will eventually collapse in a smoke of cocaine dust. 

From crooked Mexican politicians and cops to ranch hands trying to make extra money delivering cocaine across the border, the show demonstrates the complicity among the cartels and how far the cartels’ reach.

“Narcos: Mexico” attempts to show that good and evil isn’t always black and white. The story highlights the gray area where even those committing corrupt acts are victims, Luna explained. 

“Some of the characters that take action are victims of the whole system,” Luna said in Spanish. 

The side of Mexico shown in “Narcos: Mexico” has been criticized by some as a side of Mexico stereotypically seen in the media.

However, Luna sees it as a side of the country that is real and must be discussed in order to move forward.

“When this season ends, I was 10 to 11 years old [at the time.] That decade was actually ending. It’s interesting to revisit that decade as an adult and research that Mexico my father was trying to hide from me [as a child],” Luna explained.

Luna says that this type of storytelling is important to understanding the fuller picture of Mexico.

The need for this type of storytelling—the stories that put a mirror up to a country to see the darkest side of itself—is vital, regardless of how complex it is to write scripts about all the facets of a country marred by political and judicial corruption. 

“In this case the story is very complex, it’s talking about a corrupt system that allows these stories to happen. We don’t tell stories like that—we simply everything. With this, I had a chance to understand that complexity. The journey of this character is a presentable journey. Power has a downside, and he gets there and he thinks he’s indispensable and clearly he is not,” Luna said. 

Outside of his role on “Narcos,” Luna is a vocal activist and is constantly working to put Mexico’s art and talent on an international stage through his work, vigilantly reminding his audience that Mexico has culture waiting to be explored past the resort walls of Cancún and Cabo. 

“The beauty of Mexico is that there are many Mexicos—it’s a very diverse country. You have the Pacific Coast that is beautiful and vibrant and really cool. By far my favorite beach spots in Mexico are in Oaxaca, and all the region of Baja California. You also have the desert and jungle and Veracruz and you have all the Caribbean coast and the city is to me a place I can’t really escape. Home is Mexico City, and it will always be where most of my love stories are and where I belong,” Luna said in a sort of love note aside to his home country. 

As much as Luna can talk endlessly about his favorite tacos in Mexico City (Tacos El Güero for any inquiring minds) and the gastronomic wonders of its pocket neighborhoods such as la Condesa, he also wants the dialogue around Mexico’s violence to be shown under a spotlight, as searing as it may be. 

“We can’t avoid talking about violence because if we stop, we normalize something that has to change,” Luna said. 

Perhaps “Narcos: Mexico” can bring some introspection and change after all. Let’s hope the politicians are watching.

READ: ‘Narcos: Mexico’ Season 2 Picks Up Where We Left Off With Félix Gallardo And The Guadalajara Cartel

Mexican Newspaper Slammed After Publishing Graphic Photos Of Woman’s Tragic Death

Things That Matter

Mexican Newspaper Slammed After Publishing Graphic Photos Of Woman’s Tragic Death

SkyNews/ Twitter

In Mexico, the recent brutal mutilation and slaying of a 25-year-old woman are spurning conversations about the country’s efforts to prevent femicide and laws that protect victims from the media.

On Sunday, Mexican authorities revealed that they had discovered the body of Ingrid Escamilla.

According to reports, Escamilla was found lifeless with her body skinned and many of her organs missing. At the scene, a 46-year-old man was also discovered alive. His body was covered in bloodstains and he was arrested.

As of this story wasn’t troubling enough, local tabloids and websites managed to bring more tragedy to the victim and her family by splashing leaked graphic photos and videos of the victim’s body. In a terribly crafted headline, one paper by the name of Pasala printed the photos on its front page with the headline “It was Cupid’s fault.” The headline is a reference to the fact that the man found at the scene was Escamilla’s husband.

According to leaked video footage from the arrest scene, Escamilla’s husband admitted to stabbing his wife after a heated argument in which she threatened to kill him. He then claimed to have skinned her body to eliminate evidence.

Mexic City’s mayor, Claudia Sheinbaum, revealed that prosecutors will demand the maximum sentence against the alleged perpetrator.

“Femicide is an absolutely condemnable crime. It is appalling when hatred reaches extremes like in the case of Ingrid Escamilla,” Sheinbaum wrote in a tweet according to CNN. According to reports, Mexico broke records in 2018 when its homicide record reached over 33,000 people that year.

The publication of Escamilla’s mutilated body has sparked discussions regarding the way in which reports about violence against women are handled.

Women’s rights organizations have lambasted the papers that originally published photos of Escamilla’s body and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador also expressed criticism of the media’s response to the brutal slaying.

In a press conference on Thursday, President López Obrador expressed his determination to find and punish anyone responsible for the image leaks. “This is a crime, that needs to be punished, whoever it is,” he stated.