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. 

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Mexico City Could Soon Change Its Name To Better Embrace Its Indigenous Identity

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Mexico City Could Soon Change Its Name To Better Embrace Its Indigenous Identity

Mexico City is the oldest surviving capital city in all of the Americas. It also is one of only two that actually served as capitals of their Indigenous communities – the other being Quito, Ecuador. But much of that incredible history is washed over in history books, tourism advertisements, and the everyday hustle and bustle of a city of 21 million people.

Recently, city residents voted on a non-binding resolution that could see the city’s name changed back to it’s pre-Hispanic origin to help shine a light on its rich Indigenous history.

Mexico City could soon be renamed in honor of its pre-Hispanic identity.

A recent poll shows that 54% of chilangos (as residents of Mexico City are called) are in favor of changing the city’s official name from Ciudad de México to México-Tenochtitlán. In contrast, 42% of respondents said they didn’t support a name change while 4% said they they didn’t know.

Conducted earlier this month as Mexico City gears up to mark the 500th anniversary of the fall of the Aztec empire capital with a series of cultural events, the poll also asked respondents if they identified more as Mexicas, as Aztec people were also known, Spanish or mestizo (mixed indigenous and Spanish blood).

Mestizo was the most popular response, with 55% of respondents saying they identified as such while 37% saw themselves more as Mexicas. Only 4% identified as Spaniards and the same percentage said they didn’t know with whom they identified most.

The poll also touched on the city’s history.

The ancient city of Tenochtitlán.

The same poll also asked people if they thought that the 500th anniversary of the Spanish conquest of Tenochtitlán by Spanish conquistadoresshould be commemorated or forgotten, 80% chose the former option while just 16% opted for the latter.

Three-quarters of respondents said they preferred areas of the the capital where colonial-era architecture predominates, such as the historic center, while 24% said that they favored zones with modern architecture.

There are also numerous examples of pre-Hispanic architecture in Mexico City including the Templo Mayor, Tlatelolco and Cuicuilco archaeological sites.

Tenochtitlán was one of the world’s most advanced cities when the Spanish arrived.

Tenochtitlán, which means “place where prickly pears abound” in Náhuatl, was founded by the Mexica people in 1325 on an island located on Lake Texcoco. The legend goes that they decided to build a city on the island because they saw the omen they were seeking: an eagle devouring a snake while perched on a nopal.

At its peak, it was the largest city in the pre-Columbian Americas. It subsequently became a cabecera of the Viceroyalty of New Spain. Today, the ruins of Tenochtitlán are in the historic center of the Mexican capital. The World Heritage Site of Xochimilco contains what remains of the geography (water, boats, floating gardens) of the Mexica capital.

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Mexico Plunges 23 Places On The World Happiness Report As The Country Struggles To Bounce Back

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Mexico Plunges 23 Places On The World Happiness Report As The Country Struggles To Bounce Back

When it comes to international happiness rankings, Mexico has long done well in many measurements. In fact, in 2019, Mexico placed number 23 beating out every other Latin American country except for Costa Rica. But in 2020, things looks a lot different as the country slipped 23 spots on the list. What does this mean for Mexico and its residents? 

Mexico slips 23 spots on the World Happiness Report thanks to a variety of compelling factors.

Mexico plummeted 23 places to the 46th happiest nation in the world, according to the 2020 happiness rankings in the latest edition of the United Nations’ World Happiness Report. The coronavirus pandemic had a significant impact on Mexicans’ happiness in 2020, the new report indicates.

“Covid-19 has shaken, taken, and reshaped lives everywhere,” the report noted, and that is especially true in Mexico, where almost 200,000 people have lost their lives to the disease and millions lost their jobs last year as the economy recorded its worst downturn since the Great Depression.

Based on results of the Gallup World Poll as well as an analysis of data related to the happiness impacts of Covid-19, Mexico’s score on the World Happiness Report index was 5.96, an 8% slump compared to its average score between 2017 and 2019 when its average ranking was 23rd.

The only nations that dropped more than Mexico – the worst country to be in during the pandemic, according to an analysis by the Bloomberg news agency – were El Salvador, the Philippines and Benin.

Mexico has struggled especially hard against the Coronavirus pandemic. 

Since the pandemic started, Mexico has fared far worse than many other countries across Latin America. Today, there are reports that Mexico has been undercounting and underreporting both the number of confirmed cases and the number of deaths. Given this reality, the country is 2nd worst in the world when it comes to number of suspected deaths, with more than 200,000 people dead. 

Could the happiness level have an impact on this year’s elections?

Given that Mexico’s decline in the rankings appears related to the severity of the coronavirus pandemic here, one might assume that the popularity of the federal government – which has been widely condemned for its management of the crisis from both a health and economic perspective – would take a hit.

But a poll published earlier this month found that 55.9% of respondents approved of President López Obrador’s management of the pandemic and 44% indicated that they would vote for the ruling Morena party if the election for federal deputies were held the day they were polled.

Support for Morena, which apparently got a shot in the arm from the national vaccination program even as it proceeded slowly, was more than four times higher than that for the two main opposition parties, the PAN and the PRI.

Still, Mexico’s slide in the happiness rankings could give López Obrador – who has claimed that ordinary Mexicans are happier with him in office – pause for thought.

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