Updated date:

Exploring Tequila and Mezcal: History and Fun Recipes

Author:

Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes, one ingredient at a time.

Tequila Beverage

Tequila Beverage

Our Story Begins

Today, tequila is the label for a popular distilled spirit derived from the agave plant. But in the 18th century, Tequila was little more than the name of a remote village towered over by the volcano of the same name. Despite its small size, the village of Tequila had a big reputation for being the place where the most tantalizing mezcal, “vino mezcal,” could be found. What made this place so special? The people of Tequila were blessed to have a special variety of agave called the blue Weber.

Blue Agave Garden in Tequila, Mexico

Blue Agave Garden in Tequila, Mexico

The Tale of Tequila

In the history of humankind, there have been many tragic love stories, the ill-fated love of soul mates that society deemed should never be together. Shakespeare wove a sorrowful tale of misbegotten love in the fictional characters of Romeo and Juliet. A true-life story was a part of the famous Hatfield vs. McCoy feud that lasted three decades. And then, there was the rivalry between the Sauza and Cuervo families in Guadalajara.

Once upon a time in Guadalajara, there lived two competing tequila-making families, Sauza and Cuervo. They had always quarreled and for a generation, they had exchanged both insults and pistol shots. Sauza children never met Cuervo children in Guadalajara. But then young Javier Sauza went to a small university in Chicago...

— National Geographic, March 1967

Javier, the third generation of the Sauza dynasty, left the family home to attend college in Chicago, Illinois. There he met and fell in love with Doña Maria Elena “Nina” Gutierrez Salcedo, a cousin of the Cuervo family. This forbidden love so enraged his father that Javier was shut out of the family business until just weeks prior to the senior’s death.

The Mysticism of Mezcal

The flavors are just mystical to me. I think we spent a little time in the town of Mezcal but you’ll never find it on a map. We were on our way to Mazatlan and the train broke down. It was the '70s, so, crazy-in-love kids that we were, Mrs. D. and I embarked on the adventure and checked into a small hostel-type room. What fun. Two days of just dancing and laughing and drinking from a well. At least, that’s how I remember it. Perhaps I am a bit fogged.

It was the food that caused us to stay. The aroma of the outside ovens with corn. The sweet smell of chilies being roasted. The smell of the soil they were grown from—a musky scent of red dust and dirt. Can you imagine fresh tortillas filled with goat cheese made in the morning, corn 10 minutes off the cob, and a splash of Mezcal? Add some salsa and you’re dancing on the rooftops.

— Eric Dierker (friend and fellow online writer who lives in Southern California, about 25 miles from Tijuana, Mexico)

Tequila, Mezcal, and the Agave Plant

All tequilas are mezcal, but not all mezcals are tequila. Allow me to explain.

Tequila and mezcal are both made from an agave plant. (By the way, despite its appearance, the agave is not a cactus, it’s technically a member of the lily family, but I digress.)

Tequila is an alcoholic spirit made from the juice of a specific agave—the blue Weber agave. To make tequila the heart of the agave is steamed and then distilled in copper pots.

But then there is mezcal, made not from the blue Weber but from any of 30 types of agave plants. Think of it as tequila’s sultry, sexy cousin. It gets that signature smoky flavor from being cooked in underground pits lined with hot rocks that burn for about 24 hours before the cooking process begins.

How Mezcal Is Made

Ceviche-Style Tequila Shrimp

Ceviche-Style Tequila Shrimp

Ceviche-Style Tequila Shrimp

I never grow tired of the Mexican/South American flavors of tomato, avocado, and cilantro. Honestly, that combination makes an appearance on our dinner table at least once a week. As I write this we are still in the midst of winter, but I have faith that it might just get warm again one of these days, and when it does we'll certainly use this recipe.

This ceviche-style tequila shrimp would be a perfect appetizer on a hot summer evening. I'm ready for summer!

Grilled Mezcal Chicken Fajitas

Grilled Mezcal Chicken Fajitas

Grilled Mezcal Chicken Fajitas

Kristen is the creator of the blog The Endless Meal, a place for recipes that are easy to make, healthy, and delicious. Most of her recipes are Whole30, paleo, keto, vegan, or gluten-free.

These grilled mezcal chicken fajitas use lean boneless chicken thighs (yes, you can trim away the fat and make them lean), and lots of fresh veggies. Mezcal is part of the marinade that adds flavor and tenderness. Start to finish you can have this meal ready for your family in 40 minutes.

Honey Tequila Lime Chicken Drummies

Honey Tequila Lime Chicken Drummies

Honey Tequila Lime Chicken Drummies

Who doesn't love chicken drummies? They're like wings, only easier and bigger. And these honey-tequila marinated chicken drumsticks are tender, full of flavor, and (in my opinion) perfect football food.

Mezcal Shrimp Tacos

Mezcal Shrimp Tacos

Mezcal Shrimp Tacos

This recipe is an easy one from Rachel Ray on the Food Network.

Rachel isn't a trained chef; she's a home cook like you and me, and that's what makes her recipes so simple, approachable, and easy for anyone to achieve. Her mezcal shrimp tacos would be a great dinner to put together for your family on weeknights, or for a fun gathering with friends.

Spicy Mezcal Salsa

Spicy Mezcal Salsa

Spicy Mezcal Salsa

Salsa borracha (in Spanish, this means drunken salsa) is typically made with beer or tequila, but Marcela Benitez shared this recipe on Chowhound which uses smoky mezcal. Of course, you can use this as a simple dip, but I'd suggest using it in fish tacos or barbacoa.

Spicy Shredded "Chicken" Tofu Tacos with Mezcal Lime Corn

Spicy Shredded "Chicken" Tofu Tacos with Mezcal Lime Corn

Spicy Shredded "Chicken" Tofu Tacos with Mezcal Lime Corn

I hope my vegetarian/vegan friends didn't think I had forgotten them. Did you know that extra-firm tofu can make a pretty great stand-in for shredded chicken? The Vegan Caveman tells us how. And that mezcal lime corn is amazing!

(By the way, real-meat lovers can use their protein of choice to go along with the corn.)

Hot Chocolate Ice Cream

Hot Chocolate Ice Cream

Hot Chocolate Ice Cream

Homemade Mexican hot chocolate-flavored ice cream (yes, with cinnamon) and a bold pop of flavor from mezcal and a dash of cayenne pepper. Ohmygoodness, sign me up for a double scoop.

This ice cream is rich and luxuriant, but it's not for the kiddies. This is grown-up ice cream and we deserve it, don't you think?

Sources

© 2020 Linda Lum

Comments

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on April 03, 2020:

Lawrence, it was my pleasure. Stay safe.

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on April 02, 2020:

Linda

These recipes looked delicious. Thank you for transporting us to the village.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on February 29, 2020:

Thanks Jason. A few weeks ago I did one on beer and I'll do others on Sherry, etc in the weeks to come

Jason Nicolosi from AZ on February 29, 2020:

A lot of fun and great ideas here for Tequila. I can't wait to try some of these recipes out. Very nice article.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on February 29, 2020:

Kari, the recipe presented here is "ceviche-style," not real ceviche; the shrimp is cooked. According to the Food and Drug Administration "While the marinade denatures the raw seafood, it does not actually cook it. Consequently, bacteria, viruses and parasites are often served up as an unintended garnish on ceviche.

The FDA reports that specific microbial hazards in ceviche include: Anisakis simplex, Diphyllobothrium spp., Pseudoterranova decipiens and Pseudoterranova cattani, and Vibrio parahaemolyticus. Anisakiasis is a zoonotic disease caused by the ingestion of larval nematodes.

Cholera outbreaks in Latin America in the 1990s were linked to contaminated seafood that was eaten as ceviche."

Pregnant women are particularly at risk if they eat ceviche, with the American Dietetic Association urging all women to avoid ceviche during pregnancy.

So, the bottom line is that this recipe is safe--I cannot in good conscience recommend the "cooking" of raw seafood with citrus juice.

Kari Poulsen from Ohio on February 29, 2020:

I would love to know more about seviche. I have never eaten it because I was afraid of the shrimp going bad.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on February 28, 2020:

Raymond, I do hope that you will come back and read more of my articles. I have almost 500 food-related articles and almost all of them contain a story, a history lesson. I enjoy food history.

Raymond Philippe from The Netherlands on February 28, 2020:

I started reading this article because I was attracted by the word Tequila. Then suddenly I stumbled upon all of those delicious recipes. This is my intermittent fasting week so I immediately became hungry again. By the way, I hadn't heard of Mezcal yet. Learning all the time.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on February 27, 2020:

Rachelle, I'm so glad that you stopped by and left a comment. I appreciate your kind words. Have a wonderful day .

Rachelle Williams from Tempe, AZ on February 27, 2020:

Margaritas are my favorite drink, but until your article, I was not educated at all about Tequila. This is yet another Hub I have saved and will download today, because I really want to try some of the recipes here - since I like the flavor of Tequila, I'm thinking I'll love the Mezcal infused dishes you have included, especially Honey Tequila Lime Chicken Drummies...They sound delicious!

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on February 26, 2020:

Linda, I saw a documentary on harvesting the agave plants and they were removing the whole center core out of it. The core looked kind of like a pineapple. I don't know if the plant survived that, but I'm not sure it could survive.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on February 26, 2020:

Wow, Flourish, good for you. Let me know if you make any of these. I'd love feedback.

FlourishAnyway from USA on February 26, 2020:

This is fabulous and makes me sooo hungry. I was gifted a big bottle of tequila but don’t drink so this is splendid.

manatita44 from london on February 26, 2020:

No. Came back on Monday evening. Thanks.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on February 26, 2020:

Wow, what an education! You've taught me many things I didn't know, Linda.

I don't like tequila and have never tried mezcal, but this is an interesting article, nonetheless.

The blue agave plant looks very much like a pineapple plant.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on February 26, 2020:

Manatita, you know me--I love a good story and try to find one to share whenever I can. I thought if anything the ice cream would get your attention. I know that you have a sweet tooth.

Are you still in Germany?

manatita44 from london on February 26, 2020:

Seems like one can do endless things with food. Hot chocolate ice-cream?

Tequila and mescal I think of as very potent stuff. The romance woven in between the two families are quite 'cool.'

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on February 26, 2020:

Doris, you've presented something I had not considered. Does one need to kill the entire plant to harvest and make tequila? Hmmm, I think I'd just enjoy the beauty of the plant and go to the state liquor store.

Who doesn't like chicken? (Well, actually I know several people who don't) but it's so versatile I can't imagine cooking without it.

I love Mexican foods too. It's so danged cold here I need some salsa (and perhaps tequila on the side) to warm up.

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on February 25, 2020:

Mmmm, you sure rang my bell today, Linda. I love Mexican dishes. I really want to try those honey tequila lime chicken drummies. Hopefully the chicken flavor will be covered up so Larry will eat them. He's a beef or pork person, so getting him to eat chicken is a real chore.

My granddaughter gave me two agave plants, blue in color, from her backyard in Texas. The larger one survived the first winter. They are such a beautiful plant. Now the survivor is spreading, but we don't plan to kill it and make tequila, LOL.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on February 25, 2020:

In that I was impatient. Not really your comment had me looking up what acetic acid really does to things -- shrimp cooked in ACV. Now wine turns to vinegar. I reckon acetic acid changes it quicker.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on February 25, 2020:

Eric, I'm sorry to be so late in getting back to you. I can't verify 100 percent, but in theory, any recipe that involves cooking the tequila or mezcal will burn off the alcohol so that only the flavor remains.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on February 25, 2020:

I have not tried salsa on scrambled eggs but I think I would like it.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on February 25, 2020:

Sorry this just came up in my mind. How much alcohol content do the end results have in them -- I am thinking maybe not for Gabe.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on February 25, 2020:

Kari, you are correct about seviche; perhaps that's why the author of the recipe called it "seviche-style." I know a few people (my husband, for instance) who would never try fish "cooked" with acid.

Kari Poulsen from Ohio on February 25, 2020:

I never knew the difference between mezcal and tequila. I will have to try some mezcal some time. The recipes are great! I was a little confused about using cooked shrimp in cerviche. I thought it was made with raw shrimp that is "cooked" by the lime juice. Either way, thanks for the great recipes!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on February 25, 2020:

Pamela, I'm leaning toward the salsa. it goes with so many things. Have you ever tried salsa on scrambled eggs?

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on February 25, 2020:

Thanks for a great article, Linda, but now I am suddenly hugry. I have never used tequila of any kind for cooking but these receipes look so good. I love Latino foods anyway.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on February 25, 2020:

Eric, I hope you know how much I love you. This one's for you. I hope you enjoy it.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on February 25, 2020:

Bill, I don't think I've ever tasted it and have no desire to do so. But, did you catch the quotation in the middle of the story?

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on February 25, 2020:

I obviously have a fondness for alcohol, but I hated tequila. Even drunks have standards. lol Happy Tuesday my friend.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on February 25, 2020:

Alrighty then. I got to this one "hot off the press". My Gabe then interrupted, as usually a bug/animal/plant just had to be seen. But then he saw a picture here. And ten minutes later we went to check out our new resident a mole. (no not my favorite sauce Mole')

So now I am back to savor. These sound and look so good. I will be adding squid to my ceviche. Today. Loved that love story.