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Journey with Pascale's Wine & Liquors through the World of Tequila and Mezcal

Mon, May 29, 23
At Pascale's Wine & Liquors, we are proud to be at the forefront of the tequila and agave hype in the Fayetteville and Syracuse, NY area. As the go-to destination for enthusiasts and connoisseurs alike, our store at 105 Towne Dr. Manlius, NY 13066 is a haven for those seeking the latest and hard-to-find releases. When you visit us, you'll have the opportunity to connect with our friendly and knowledgeable staff, or even have a conversation with Nick himself, the owner and tequila aficionado, who can guide you through his top picks.

History, Evolution, and Storytelling of Tequila and Agave-Based Spirits

Originally used by the Aztecs for religious rituals and medicinal purposes, agave-based alcohol production dates back to the 16th century. Spanish conquistadors brought the art of distillation to Mexico, giving birth to modern tequila and other agave spirits. Over the years, production methods have evolved to support increasing demand, but tequila's rich heritage remains, and artisans still follow time-honored traditions. The legacy of tequila maker Don Cenobio Sauza, who first introduced reposado and led the charge in promoting tequila in the US during the late 19th century, exemplifies the revolutionary spirit and entrepreneurial zeal behind the growth of the tequila industry.

While tequila and mezcal often take center stage, other agave spirits such as raicilla, sotol, and bacanora also deserve recognition. Each offers a unique flavor profile resulting from regional agave varieties, production methods, and local customs.

Agave Varieties: Discover the Flavors of Distinct Plants

Not all agave plants are created equal. The Blue Weber agave is the sole source for tequila production, offering notes of honey, citrus, and freshly-cut green grass. In contrast, mezcal is made from a variety of agave species, each imparting unique flavors. For instance, Tobalá agave creates a fruity, floral mezcal, while the Espadín agave yields a more earthy and smoky profile. The process of roasting the agave piña, or heart, gives mezcal its distinctive smokiness, setting it apart from tequila.

Age Differences between Blanco, Reposado, Añejo, and Extra Añejo Tequilas

Tequila is divided into four primary age categories, with each category lending distinct characteristics.
Blanco Tequila – Never aged or aged less than two months, blanco tequilas showcase the natural flavors of agave without added complexities from barrel aging. Los Dos Blanco Tequila is a shining example of masterfully crafted blanco tequila, made from 100% agave with no additives.
Reposado Tequila – Aged for a period between two months and one year, reposado tequilas gain their amber hue and additional flavors from oak barrels. This aging process imparts a richer, smoother quality than blanco tequila. Tres Agaves Reposado Tequila, with hints of citrus, spice, and baked tropical fruits, is an organic masterpiece perfect for sipping neat or mixing in a tequila drink or margarita.
Añejo Tequila – Ranging from one to three years in oak barrels, añejo tequilas boast complex and mature flavors, making them an excellent choice for sipping neat or enjoying in premium cocktails.
Extra Añejo Tequila – Aged for at least three years, extra añejo tequilas represent the pinnacle of tequila craftsmanship. Their lengthy aging process affords unparalleled complexity and depth, earning them a place among the world's most exquisite sipping spirits. Tears of Llorona Extra Anejo Tequila, aged for five years in oak barrels previously holding scotch, sherry, and brandy, is a rare and small batch spirit with a unique, layered flavor that has been compared to cognac or a very old whiskey, yet still retains clear agave notes. The high cost of extra añejo tequilas like Tears of Llorona is well-justified by the unmatched sensory experience they provide, making them a worthwhile investment for tequila connoisseurs.

Exploring Mezcal – A World of Distinct Flavors and Techniques

Mezcal, often considered tequila's smoky cousin, is produced primarily in the Oaxaca region. Made from a wide variety of agave plants and showcasing the traditional production methods, mezcal offers a unique smoky taste, unlike any other spirit.

Top producing regions for mezcal include Oaxaca, Michoacán, and Guerrero. Each region has its unique agave varieties, imparting various flavors to the final product. An interesting process in mezcal production involves roasting agave hearts in earthen pits lined with volcanic rocks, giving mezcal its signature smokiness. Mal Bien Mezcal Felix Ramirez Espadin, produced by mezcalero Félix Ramírez Mendez, is a prime example of a high-quality mezcal with its distinct flavors and aromas.

Unveiling Tequila Additives: Secrets and Concerns

It may come as a surprise to some that tequilas may hide undisclosed additives. Under Mexican law, tequila brands can legally add ingredients like sugar-based sweeteners, glycerin, oak extract, and caramel coloring, without informing consumers. These additives, as long as they don't exceed 1% of the total volume, can alter the taste, aroma, and appearance of tequila. 

At Pascale's Wine & Liquors, we are committed to sourcing the highest quality tequilas and mezcals that are free from additives and uphold the true essence of these spirits. Visit our store at 105 Towne Dr. Manlius, NY 13066 to explore our additive-free options and indulge in the true essence of these exceptional spirits.

*The four tequila/mezcal recommendations promoted earlier in this article are all additive free.

The Correct Way to Taste Tequila and Mezcal

To fully appreciate the flavors and aromas of tequila or mezcal, follow these steps:

1. Choose the proper glass, such as a whiskey or wine glass, to concentrate the aromas.
2. Observe the color of the spirit to get an idea of the age and oak influence.
3. Swirl the spirit gently to release its aroma and then sniff gently, taking note of the different scents.
4. Sip a small amount and let it coat your palate before swallowing.
5. Finally, allow the flavors to linger and evolve as you savor each sip.

Identifying Quality Tequila and Mezcal

High-quality tequila should be made from 100% Blue Weber agave, and its label should bear the "100% Agave" mark. For mezcal, focus on traditional artisanal production methods and labels indicating "Certified Craft Mezcal." Pay attention to the presence of the Mexican government's seal of authenticity,-known as the 'CRT' or 'CRM' mark, for both tequila and mezcal.

Tequila and Mezcal Food Pairings

Traditionally enjoyed straight or as a mixed cocktail, tequila and mezcal can bring out the best in many dishes. For blanco tequilas like Los Dos, consider pairing with light Mexican cuisine like ceviche, guacamole, or grilled shrimp tacos. Reposado tequilas, like Tres Agaves Reposado, would pair well with richer, slow-cooked dishes such as chicken mole, carnitas, or barbacoa. Añejo tequilas, and especially extra añejo tequilas like Tears of Llorona, with their notes of caramel and vanilla, are a perfect match for sweet desserts like flan or chocolate cake. Mezcal, like Mal Bien Espadin, with its smoky flavors, complements grilled meats or earthy, spicy dishes like chiles en nogada or roasted vegetables.

Creative Ways to Enjoy Agave Spirits


Tres Agaves Reposado Tequila Sunset Serenade

- 2 oz Tres Agaves Reposado Tequila
- 1.5 oz orange juice
- 1 oz pineapple juice
- 0.5 oz lime juice
- 0.5 oz agave syrup
- 0.5 oz grenadine
- Pinch of sea salt

1. In a shaker filled with ice, combine all ingredients.
2. Shake well and strain into a rocks glass filled with ice.
3. Garnish with an orange wheel and enjoy!

Suggested food pairing: Fresh ceviche or grilled shrimp tacos will perfectly complement the tropical vibes of this enticing cocktail.

Mal Bien Mezcal Smoke & Citrus Showstopper

- 2 oz Mal Bien Espadin Mezcal
- 2 oz grapefruit juice
- 0.5 oz lime juice
- 0.5 oz agave syrup
- 0.5 oz rosemary simple syrup

1. Fill a shaker with ice and add all ingredients.
2. Shake vigorously and strain into a tall glass filled with fresh ice.
3. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary and a grapefruit wedge.

Suggested food pairing: The smoky and zesty flavors of this delightful cocktail pair particularly well with barbecue pulled pork sliders or chicken-topped nachos.

Want to try something new? Try Infusions!

Creating your own agave infusions is a fun way to explore different flavors and create unique-tasting concoctions. To infuse tequila or mezcal with various ingredients such as fruits, herbs, or spices, follow these simple steps:

1. Choose a bottle of quality tequila or mezcal, preferably blanco for a cleaner base (we recommend Los Dos Blanco Tequila).
2. Pick ingredients you'd like to infuse, such as roasted pineapple, cucumber, jalapeño, or rosemary.
3. Coarsely chop the ingredients and place them into a clean glass jar.
4. Pour the agave spirit over the ingredients, ensuring they are fully submerged.
5. Seal the jar tightly and let it rest in a cool, dark place for at least three days to one week. Taste the infusion periodically until it reaches the desired flavor.
6. Once the infusion is ready, strain the mixture through a fine mesh, discarding the solids.
7. Pour the infused spirit back into the original bottle or another glass container, and enjoy it in your favorite cocktails or sipped neat.
Armed with this comprehensive guide, you are well on your way to becoming an agave aficionado. As you explore the world of tequila, mezcal, and other agave-based spirits, may you find endless adventures and unforgettable tastes!
By Alden Morris