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What is the difference between tequila and mezcal?

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Cooking with Tequila

© 2008 Peggy Trowbridge Filippone
Question: What is the difference between tequila and mezcal?
Tequila is subject to more rigid standards than mezcal
Answer: Tequila was originally distilled from the sap (called aquamiel, meaning honey water) from the heart (also called the pineapple) of the blue agave plant into a brandy known in old Mexico as vino mezcal.

Today, mezcal and tequila are two completely different liquors. Tequila may only be made from the blue agave in government-specified areas of Jalisco, Mexico, while mezcal may be made from any variety of agave. The original fermentation is 104 to 106 proof, but is reduced to 80 to 86 proof for shipment to the United States.

Mexican standards require the standard cocktail mixing liquor to be at least 51 percent derived from agave sap sugar to be labeled Tequila, with the remaining 49 percent generally being corn or cane sugar.

Tequila made of 100 percent agave is much more expensive and is reserved as a sipping liquor due to its high quality.

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Cooking with Tequila Photo © 2008 Peggy Trowbridge Filippone, licensed to About.com, Inc.
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