The roots of mezcal stretch far into the complex history of contemporary Mexico. Agave, the plant from which it is made, has been cultivated for centuries, used as both a flavoring and a sweetener, as well as being fermented into mildly alcoholic drinks such as pulque, which dates back at least 2,000 years.
Today, mezcal is still made from the heart of the agave plant, called the piña. In Mexico, mezcal is consumed straight and has a strong smoky flavor. Though it is not as popular as tequila (which is made specifically from the blue agave plant in select regions), Mexico does export the product to Japan and the United States, and exports are ever-growing.
The agave plant is ripe throughout most of the country, but Mezcal is truly booming in the state of Oaxaca. And on local Oaxaca tours, it’s easy to find small, dusty distilleries throughout the rural landscape that still produce mezcal completely by hand.
Apart from the adventure tours exploring the abundance of Mayan ruins nearby, delving into the intricacies of Mezcal-making has proved to be an educational and worthwhile experience, even for just a small savoring of what many call, the real taste of Mexico in a bottle.