History and Origin of Mezcal

Mezcal is Mexican distilled liquor made from any type of agave in contrast with Tequila, that is made only from Blue Agave.

Its origins go way back and its ancestral making process it’s deeply connected with Mexico’s history.

This post delves into the origins and history of Mezcal and its transformation from Pulque to what we know today as Mezcal, mostly due to the introduction of the distillation technology, brought by the Spanish Conquistadors.

Mezcal Origins

The name Mezcal originates from the Nahuatl words ‘metl’ and ‘ixcalli’, which when combined, mean ‘oven-cooked agave’. 

There is evidence of alcohols derived from agave being made in Mexico as far back as 200 AD.

The first alcohol known at this type was “Pulque”, a fermented raw agave liqueur. This liquour eventually evolved into a spirit that is distilled from cooked agave, instead of raw. This spirit will be known as Mezcal.

The first reference we can find on books is dated in 1608. It is assumed that since it was after the arrival of the Spanish to Mexico, that they introduced the process of distillation that makes Mezcal different from the “Pulque”.

Today, Mezcal has become a very popular spirit between drinkers and mixologists. This has caused an increase in demand even if not every consumer knows much about this historic drink.

Where Does Mezcal Come From:

Man on top of a mountain of mezcal piñas being roasted

More than 90% of Mezcal production is made in Oaxaca, a Mexican state, but still it can be produced in other Mexican states, like Guerrero, Durango, and San Luis Potosi. 

A big part of the Mexican territory that produces Mezcal is now protected by the DOM, Denomination of Origin mezcal, a law that ensures that the traditional and ancestral production process is being respected. 

Each geographical and climatic diversity of all these regions impart a unique character to Mezcal, making each drink having a unique profile depending on the region, agave or even soil.

History of Mezcal

The saga of Mezcal starts with the agave and the Pulque drink. 

Indigenous communities had been creating a primitive form of this spirit for centuries, harnessing the mystical qualities of the agave plant and it was said that it had a special place in all the religious rituals.

With the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors, around the 16th century, who introduced distillation techniques, Mezcal was born.

The Spanish also brought with them copper stills which significantly enhanced the distillation process, allowing for a purer and more refined final product.

The 20th century saw a resurgence in the popularity of Mezcal as an authentic Mexican spirit, both nationally and globally.

The Mezcal production process underwent different processes that refined the spirit, and what evolved was a beverage that retained its ancestral essence while embracing a new sophisticated and unique profile that made him what it is today.  

Each Mezcal-producing region began to take pride in its unique variant of the spirit, nurturing the age-old traditions that went into its making.

Mezcal in Contemporary Culture

Mezcal it’s no longer confined to the local taverns of Mexico, but is now a prized possession in the repertoire of mixologists and spirit connoisseurs worldwide. 

The artisanal nature and the vast spectrum of flavors that Mezcal presents have caught the fancy of many.

Leading to a resurgence in its popularity with mixologists experimenting and redefining the Mezcal-based cocktail scene. 

Moreover, the endorsement from celebrities and the advent of private labels owned by notable personalities have further elevated Mezcal’s stature. 

This wave of celebrity involvement and the craft cocktail movement have dovetailed to spotlight Mezcal as not just a historic beverage, but a modern-day muse for those adventurers chasing new flavours. 

Mezcal production has increased, from less than 1 million liters in 2011 to almost 8 million liters in 2021.

Bottle of Del Maguey's Mezcal Ibérico with man mashing on the background


The story of Mezcal is not just a tale of a drink but a tale in Mexican history. 

Although the rise in popularity of Mezcal may put in danger its traditions and its authenticity and ancestral production process, Mexico is ensuring that everything is preserved through laws and that only certain regions can be authorized as producers.

This will ensure that Mezcal keeps being a special and a unique beverage from this beautiful country and one which people will cherish and enjoy.