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Mezcal vs. Tequila—What Are the Differences?

They may look similar, but the two liquors are actually very different.
shot of tequila with salt rim and lime wedge

When you're at the bar scanning the cocktail menu, do you ever stop and think to yourself what's the difference between mezcal and tequila? If you're not a true tequila aficionado, you may not know the difference between the two liquors offhand, aside from the fact that they, well, taste different.

We spoke with the co-founder of Sesión Premium Tequila, Jake Wall, to resolve the mezcal vs. tequila debate once and for all so you never have to ponder the differences between the two similar-looking liquors ever again.

What are the key differences in mezcal vs. tequila?

There are two major differences between mezcal and tequila, and that is where they're made and the type of agave plant they're made from.

Wall says that tequila must be made in the town of Tequila, which resides in the state of Jalisco, Mexico.

"The tequila-making process is strictly government sanctioned all the way from where it's grown, the agave type, the fermentation and aging process, to where it's bottled," he explains.

Premium tequila is made from 100 percent blue agave. Mezcal, on the other hand, can be produced anywhere in Mexico, although it's primarily produced in the Oaxaca region. Wall says mezcal can be made from up to 28 different varieties of agave.

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"Most mezcals are made from the Espadin agave, although some mezcal producers blend agave varieties and additives to create a distinct smoky flavor," says Wall.

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Does the alcohol content differ in mezcal and tequila?

"Usually, if it's 100 percent agave tequila or mezcal, then the alcohol content is 40 percent ABV, though in some cases it can be a little lower if it's mixed with any additives and not strictly 100 percent agave," he says.

Easy tequila cocktail recipe

Wall provides his recipe for a tequila-based Paloma cocktail.

paloma cocktail made with sesión premium tequila
Courtesy of Sesión

Ingredients

  • 2 oz. Sesión Reposado Tequila
  • 1/3 oz. rhubarb & vanilla syrup
  • 2 oz. fresh pink grapefruit juice
  • 1/3 oz. fresh lime juice

Directions

Shake all ingredients, pour over ice, and top with soda water. Garnish with a salt rim and dehydrated lime. Enjoy!

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Cheyenne Buckingham
Cheyenne Buckingham is the news editor of Eat This, Not That!, specializing in food and drink coverage, and breaking down the science behind the latest health studies and information. Read more