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Something “Ilegal” for Cinco de Mayo

May 4, 2010

Okay, like many, when you hear the word “mezcal”  you stomach tightens, your shoulders tense and your back shudders as you think of those college days when you were dared to eat the worm after you and your friends had polished off a bottle of some less than appetizing liquor.  And trust me I have been there!

But, let’s take a closer look at this spirit, forgetting and forgiving our unholy past, and move into a more civilized state of mind.  And while we are at it, learn a little about this rather fantastic spirit in comparison to tequila.

First off, Tequila is an offspring of mezcal much like bourbon is the offspring of whiskey.  Mezcal is any spirit made from the distillation of agave.  So all tequila is mezcal; all mezcal is not tequila.

There are over 120 varieties of agave, but tequila is made from only one species: the blue agave.  Other mezcals can be made from the other 119 varieties.

Tequila is roasted typically in ovens to draw the flavors from the agave pina, then is distilled via column stills whereas mezcal is cooked in pit dug in the ground and roasted sometimes for days.  The fire is stoked by the spines of the agave plant, and this process leads to a richer and smokier flavor.  It is then distilled in Pot stills.

Forget the worm!  Most mezcals do go with this silly novelty.  All I’m gonna say.

So like comparing scotch from Islay and the Highlands, we can distinguish a little more competently the flavor of mezcal.

And, yes I have one in particular I absolutely love!  Partially because the name appeals to my inner rebel, but mostly because it is the best I have ever had.

Ilegal Mezcal (yes only one “L”) is hand crafted, hand bottled, and individually numbered artisanal mezcal from Oaxaca.  Made in three distinct varieties (Joven, Reposado, and Anejo), I am drawn to the reposado. It is straw-like in color and has a mellow earthly and light smoke nose with balanced  tones on the palate including flavors of citrus peel, herb, smoke, and light caramel.  The finish is smooth and there is little alcohol burn/heat.  So very pleasant.

Yes, it is perfect straight, or used in place of tequila in your favorite margarita, sour or sunrise.  But I venture a little more to you.  When I began tasting Ilegal, and thinking about its flavors then its name.  I came up with this little gem of a drink.

Ilegal Lemonade

  • 1 1/2 oz Ilegal Reposado
  • 1/2 oz limoncello
  • 1/2 oz lemon juice
  • 1/4 oz agave syrup (1:1)
  • 2 oz club soda
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • 1 dash Regan’s Orange Bitters

 Combine all ingredients except club soda and rosemary in a shaker with ice, and shake for 10 seconds.  Strain into an ice filled Mason Jar (get it??).  Singe the rosemary with a lighter and extinguish in your drink.  Add a lemon wheel, slide out to the patio, and watch the sun go down.

¡Salud!

(Photos courtesy of Stephen Myers at Ilegal Mezcal)

 

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Mark permalink
    May 4, 2010 10:28 pm

    I love your blog, partly because we’re almost neighbors (I’m in ABQ). I thought, though, that mescal could only be made with 8 specific species of agave.

  2. May 9, 2010 10:06 am

    Thanks for reading Mark, and I apologize for the slow response. I did a little reading as well as spoke with Mike Morales, owner of Intimate Tequila Tastings and also a neighbor of ours (he is in ABQ as well!) Any agave species can be used for mescal. There are distilleries and villages (which most mescals, like tequila, are known) that make their mescal from certain species of agave. But the federal Mexican “laws” that govern production do not limit the typoe of agave except in Tequila.

    Great comment, Mark. Thanks again!
    Chris

  3. May 9, 2010 10:06 am

    Thanks for reading Mark, and I apologize for the slow response. I did a little reading as well as spoke with Mike Morales, owner of Intimate Tequila Tastings and also a neighbor of ours (he is in ABQ as well!) Any agave species can be used for mescal. There are distilleries and villages (which most mescals, like tequila, are known) that make their mescal from certain species of agave. But the federal Mexican “laws” that govern production do not limit the typoe of agave except in Tequila.

    Great comment, Mark. Thanks again!
    Chris

  4. Bram permalink
    May 19, 2010 8:34 pm

    Just found your blog, look forward to following it.

    Years ago in Oaxaca, seemed to be a great culture of “microbrew” mezcal, and it’s killing me that I can’t get anything good here. Recommendations on sources?

  5. May 23, 2010 5:41 pm

    That’s a toughy. Probably harder than my search for good moonshine outside the South!

    Fact is, the US trade with Mexico is limited when it comes to obscure brands of mezcal, but that is not to say you can’t find diamonds in the rough. If you live in a state that allows importation of booze via mail, look online for brands available in that medium. State distribution is based on demand and marketing, so I would suggest befriending the purchaser at a good liquor store in your area and see what they can do for you.

    Hope this helps a little, and I look forward to your future comments!

    Salud
    Chris

  6. October 30, 2010 12:52 pm

    the restaurant supplies that we have were just taken last year and most of them have been worn out already ..

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