Friday, January 06, 2006

Mescal as Fine Liqueur

Bit of a rewind here to my college days at the University of Arizona, from which the border town of Nogales, Sonora was but an hour's drive south. The dire reputation of mescal in those days, at least in U of A circles, was pretty much off the charts. Popular opinion regarded mescal as something to wash down the horse meat tacos that sold for a peso outside the Canal Street bordellos

At the liquor stores in Nogales, a liter of mescal cost less than a buck, half the price of tequila. Both products of the agave plant, mescal and tequila share the same beverage category. The principal difference is in the method of production. With tequila, the hearts of the agave plants are steamed. In mescal production, they are roasted, thus the smoky flavor. Then, as now, a worm, actually the caterpillar of a night butterfly, in the bottle is considered a distinguishing characteristic.

For more than a decade Del Maguey Ltd. has been about "designer mescal." We first encountered the Del Maguey line in 1999 at the bar of the Taos Inn, Taos, New Mexico. Later wer learned that although Del Maguey Mezcal is produced, bottled and labeled in conjunction with specific locations in the state of Oaxaca, the actual company headquarters is right there in Taos.

For more about mescal, pay Del Maguey, LTD a visit at You'll learn all you need, and the site is prolific with great drink recipes featuring mescal. One of them, the fresh watermelon margarita, is nearly identical to our own mescal watermelon martini. Aside from Del Maguey's inclusion of minute scrapings from a fresh vanilla bean, the only difference is that we substitute Del Maguey's Creme de Mezcal for its Minero Mezcal.

Del Maguey's Creme de Mezcal takes the mescal experience to a new level by combining a twenty per cent portion of unfermented agave plant syrup with its Mezcal San Luis del Rio. The company's website describes Creme de Mescal as having "a nose of roast maguey, with vanilla and pear, a creamy sweet, almond, apple, coffee, pineapple pallate and a long sweet orange, smoky finish. "

This website, which frequently is updated, features Creme de Mezcal under the heading "introducing," as if it just hit the market. I find this surprising after having obtained a bottle two years ago at Midway Liquors on Pulaski Highway east of Baltimore, even though I was never able to find it there again. Then, just before Christmas in 2005, a bottle was on the shelf for $42, about the same price as two years earlier. Hopefully, 2006 will bring more extensive distribution to the area.