The Mexican state of Oaxaca is the capital of mezcal, one of the world’s most complex and misunderstood liquors. Most know that it’s made from the agave plant, just like Tequila, but Tequila is just one type of mezcal, produced in only approved regions and only from the agave tequilana Weber species.By comparison, mezcal can be made from about three dozen other agave species, from the squat Tobala to the Joshua tree-like Karwinskii. That allows flavors to vary widely, from smoky and honeyed to peppery and grassy.Aside from the easy-to-cultivate espadín species, the bulk of those agave species are only found in the wild and often take well more than 10 years to reach maturity.That scarcity contributes to mezcal’s fast-rising popularity across today’s craft-craving world, but it also puts sustainability and authenticity at the forefront for artisanal, multigenerational producers across Mexico.Whether you merely stick to the quaint streets of its colorful cityscape or venture to village mezcalerías in the countryside, Oaxaca represents a crash course in all things mezcal. It’s served to amp up Oaxaca’s culinary scene, as tasting menus and extensive wine lists are easy to find.
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