Mezcal, often referred to as Tequila’s older cousin, is one of Mexico’s most misunderstood spirits. Made from the agaves that are found exclusively in Mexico and now considered one of the world’s hippest drinks, mezcal’s reputation continues to be obscured by a series of misconceptions and myths. One of the most popular and personal favorite involves a character known by many and hated by some: the mezcal worm. I thought I would shed some light onto this creepy-crawler and reveal some truths about him and four other mezcal myths.

1.  Is Mezcal stronger than Tequila, or Whiskey for that matter?

The truth is: neither.

It all depends on the final alcohol content that the producer wishes to have in his product. Pretty much every single distilled spirit in the world, including Tequila, Whiskey, Rum or Mezcal is distilled around 45-75% alc./vol. (90-150 proof). After being distilled, the producer must determine the final alcohol content he wishes to bottle the final spirit in. The industry average is to bottle spirits between 38%-45% alc./vol., making them easier to drink. Therefore, neither is stronger than the other, it all depends on the producer and the brand’s final word.

2.  A mezcal that doesn’t make pearls (bubbles) while being served is not a good mezcal.

This is completely false.

The pearls or bubbles have nothing to do with the quality of a mezcal. They are simply a chemical effect that is produced when a distilled spirit is between 48-60% alc./vol. This effect takes place when the presence of ethanol or alcohol is equivalent to the presence of water, therefore beneath 48% or over 60% alc./vol. there will be no bubble effect. In conclusion, the pearls have no effect on the quality of a mezcal.

3.  The worm is mezcal’s worst enemy.

The worm or larvae, is most commonly found in the mezcals from Oaxaca. Alth0ugh sometimes regarded to as a marketing scheme by the Traditional mezcal connoisseurs, the origin of the worm inside the mezcal bottle is unclear. Some believe it was created to attract tourists in the 1950′s. In Europe, people believed the worm indicated the high alcohol content of the mezcal. In Japan, the worm was seen as an aphrodisiac and it was believed that it increased sexual virility, therefore Mexican producers inserted the worms in bottles that were destined for the Japanese market.

Today, the perception of the quality of Mezcal has evolved and some now view the Mezcal con Gusano as a lower grade mezcal, as opposed to the new premium and Traditional mezcales that have entered the market in the past years. Traditionalists believe that mezcal should not be altered in any way and it should be drank over 45% alc./vol. and Joven (without any flavors added from wood or worms). However, the “gusano” or worm has been part of Oaxaca’s cuisine for generations and there are families who make outstanding Mezcal de Gusano and have made it a Tradition of their own.

4.  A reposado or añejo is better than a Blanco/Joven mezcal.

Reposado or Añejo mezcal may seem to have a more attractive color and aroma for some drinkers. Some may even seem smoother. But this statement is not necessarily true. Every reposado or añejo was once a joven mezcal, which after spending time in wooden casks has acquired the color and notes of the wood. After being aged, the color and taste may be different, but the quality of the alcohol will be the same. Therefore it is believed that aging mezcal in wooden casks can hide the imperfections of a bad mezcal. On the other hand, if you taste a joven mezcal it is impossible to hide its imperfections, because when it is blanco or pure you can identify when it has been distilled properly.

 5.  Mezcal contains Mescaline

False again!

Mezcal does not contain mescaline or any other type of hallucinogenic substance. This is simply a phonetic coincidence. The only thing mezcal contains is the hard work and passion of countless families who over centuries have dedicated their entire lives to produce one of the world’s most exquisite spirits.

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