What Exactly Is the Difference Between Mezcal and Tequila?

What Exactly Is the Difference Between Mezcal and Tequila?

Do you really know the difference between Mezcal and Tequila? Well, with Cinco de Mayo this Saturday, maybe it’s time you should.

What is the difference between mezcal and tequila? These popular Mexican drinks tend to cause confusion but they are actually simple to distinguish. 

Tequila is a type of mezcal, much like how bourbon and scotch are types of whiskey. The difference between Mezcal and Tequila are the types of agave used to produce the spirits, the appellation of origin, and how the agave is cooked -production and distillation processes.

Unlike grapes or grain, agave plants are monocarpic – meaning they die after flowering. It takes years to mature (8 to 10 years to be exact) and after an agave is used, it can’t be reused.

With the rise of the cocktail culture around the world, both mezcal and tequila have found new claims to fame on bar shelves and cocktail lists alike; so what’s the difference between these two Mexican drinks?

Are Mezcal and Tequila different

Yes, there is a difference between mezcal and tequila. 

What is Mezcal

Mezcal is a smoked agave drink from Mexico. The word mezcal comes from Nahuatl mexcalli, which means “oven-cooked agave”, from metl and ixcalli. 

There are over 200 species of agave in Mexico of which 45 to 50 of which are used to make mezcal. To make mezcal, the heart of the agave plant is smoked with the resulting liquid refined into a clear liquor.

The most common varieties of agave used to make mezcal are arroqueño, espadín, tepeztate,tobalá, and tobaziche.  Each offers unique, sophisticated flavor profiles influenced by factors like age, geography, and manufacturing process.

What is Tequila

Unlike Mezcal, Tequila is made from the Blue Agave plant ONLY. It is distilled using a fermentation process, not a smoking process. The result is a different liquor that has made a global impact on Mexico. 

Learn more about how tequila is made and its historical roots in Mexico.

Breaking down the difference between Mezcal and Tequila

difference between Mezcal and Tequila

If you’re wondering about some facts and what is the difference in taste between Mezcal and Tequila?




Where are they produced

Anywhere in Mexico, but usually produced in Oaxaca.

Only produced in the state of Jalisco and some parts of Guanajuato, Michoacán, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas.

Ingredients used

51% agave content.

100% agave.

How its distilled 

Agave is cooked in underground pits, which are lined with hot rocks that burn for about 24 hours before the cooking process begins.

Steaming agave heart (also known as the piña) in above-ground ovens and then distilling the liquid in copper pots.

How does it taste

Signature smoky flavors.

Earthy, semi-sweet flavors.

How to drink it

Traditionally sipped alongside a slice of orange topped with worm salt.

Sipped slowly.

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