Are you ready to take your taste buds on a journey? Mezcal, an agave-based spirit similar to tequila, but with over 30 different varieties of agave used, offers a wide range of flavor profiles that can be compared to different grape varietals in wine. Don't be intimidated if you're new to the world of Mezcal, it's a journey worth taking.
To get started, it's important to know that the bigger brands with lower alcohol content are typically used for mixing into cocktails. Tasting a Mezcal with an alcohol content of 55% or higher, like Espadin versus Tobala, offers a world of difference in taste. But with over 30 varietals to try, it's understandable to feel overwhelmed at first.
You can use a flavor wheel to help you understand the different flavors, from sweet tropical fruits like mango and pineapple to earthy and smoky flavors. One of the best ways to enjoy the aromas is to put several drops of Mezcal in your palm, rub your hands together, and smell the aromas. This is actually a process young apprentices in Mexico repeat for several years before ever tasting Mezcal themselves.
When it comes to serving Mezcal, avoid adding ice and don't drink it like a shot. It's best to sip it slowly to appreciate its unique flavors. Use a small clay Mezcal cup or a 5 to 6 ounce small narrow rimmed wine glass to savor the taste. Always sniff and get the aroma of anything that you are about to drink, and never judge something by the first sip, as it takes a moment for your palate to adjust, especially with the higher alcohol content of Mezcal.
To start your journey, try the Espadin varietal. It's the easiest Mezcal to approach and can be compared to the Pinot Grigio of Mezcal. Even within the Espadin varietal, there are differences based on how it was distilled. A clay distillation pot will impart more earthy flavors, while copper will be cleaner on the palate.
Keep in mind that many Mezcal producers make their product in small batches, sometimes only 100 to 200 bottles. If you find something you like, understand that it may not be there when you go look for it again. A better bottle will have a batch number and a bottle number, and since agaves take 5 to 7 years or more to mature, we may never know when another similar batch will be produced by the same producer.
Chef Marcus Guiliano, who personally visited Oaxaca to meet small family producers, owns the award-winning Aroma Thyme Bistro in Ellenville, New York, which boasts the best Mezcal and tequila menu north of New York City. Aroma Thyme Bistro has many of the top-rated brands that you won't find in most bars and restaurants, as well as traditional clay Mezcal cups. So, if you're looking for a Mezcal experience beyond the norm, visit Aroma Thyme Bistro at 165 Canal St. in Ellenville, or check out their website at www.aromathymebistro.com.
Embark on this fun journey of discovering the unique flavors of Mezcal. With its vast range of flavor profiles, you're sure to find a variety that speaks to your taste buds.
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