Sergio is training us on the KISS method, certainly not what I expected when I was invited by Tarun and Minakshi for a Mezcal tasting session. I’m seated at a table with fellow travellers, curious about this spirit, which some believe has hallucinatory properties, and for many is inextricably linked with the image of a worm floating in the liquid.
Sergio Inurrigarro, who is president of the Pro Mezcal association, makes an interesting figure at the head of the room, especially when he purses his lips. He explains that pursing the lips as if getting ready to kiss someone is important as this lets the enzymes from the saliva break down the alcohol as you sip it. This, he claims, is especially important for a spirit that represents the purest form of alcohol. The agave plant used to make Mezcal has polysaccharide sugars as opposed to most other spirits, whose root ingredients comprise monosaccharide sugars. It is made palatable by the Mezcal-based welcome cocktail being whipped up by the talented bartenders at Cocktails and Dreams, our venue for the tasting.
The first of the Mezcal tasting samples is served. The tiny diyas it comes in complement the earthy nature of the spirit. The small size of the diyas helps minimise the pour and prevent wastage, as not everyone takes to this liquid.
Mezcal, like tequila, is made from the agave plant, and there are numerous varieties of it used to produce this fiery spirit. Interestingly, one variant, the Agave Americana, grows in the wild in India, and is used in the production of a range of agave spirits in Andhra Pradesh, sold under the brand name Desmondji.
The first Mezcal we taste is made from a variety called Agave Salmiana, and is a silver Mezcal, with a 40 per cent ABV. The next one, made from the Agave Cupreata is at 45 per cent ABV, and is far earthier in its taste profile than the first. Our tasting mat on one side has pictures of 12 different varieties of the Agave, all of which I assume are used to make one or other brand of the drink. It’s going to be a long evening, I think! On the other side is a romanticised description of Mezcal in many languages of the world, including Hindi.
Mezcal is increasingly cropping up on the menus of top cocktail bars around the world, and is one of the hot new go-to spirits for bartenders to experiment with. Its taste profile varies, very earthy on one end of the range to almost tasting like a fine cognac on the other.
By far the most interesting spirit of the evening is the one we taste next, made from Agave potatarum, where a chicken breast is used as a natural filter during the distilling process.
Master Mezcalier Sergio then introduces us to Don Mateo de la Sierra, made from the Tequilana Agave that is rested for six months in Californian oak barrels. This qualifies it as a Reposado.
Our last Mezcal of the evening has a very interesting cup, a chocolate head into which the Mezcal is served and that you get to eat at the end of the meal. It’s so good that I promptly have another. Lovers of the new can expect to find a few brands of Mezcal soon in the local market, including Mezcal Marques (made from the Agave Salmiana). If not, do look out for it on your travels.