Tools of the trade
Everything you ever wanted to know about mezcal but didn’t know to ask.
Sal de Gusano
I read at Tequila.com that Mezcal and Mescal are both correct spellings. What is your understanding and why? Thanks.
Yes, neither is incorrect but mescal seems like an older term in English while mezcal is the definitive spelling in Spanish. In the English speaking world it really depends on which publication you’re reading because magazines like the New Yorker use mescal. As I write thsi response Word Press labels mescal as correct and mezcal as incorrect. Some publications use both interchangeably while still others have made the leap to mezcal. Maybe it’s finally time to find a good etymologist. Any volunteers?
My feeling precisely. Mezcal seems to be the traditional use choice, which is what I use. However, in Mexico, it seems to depend where you’re from because I have seen both spellings used on labels.
I have encountered the idea that changing the s to z was an attempt to distance the product from any association with mescaline, the hallucinatory compound found in several types of cactus, peyote being one. There are still abundant and silly connotations which blur the line between the authentic distilled product and the stuff of drug lore. I cannot quote a reliable source.
I haven’t heard that explanation and tend to think that it’s more a question of transliteration which might meant that the word mescaline is in the same sort of linguistic territory.
Mezclado was the term used in colonial Mexico for pulque that had been mixed with psychoactive herbs, including hallucinogens. In something like 1545-50 the Viceroy of Mexico outlawed Pulque Mezclado. Whereas planting wine grapes was required of land-grant hidalgos (“sons of somebody”) the altiplano was too arid (exception: baja near Tecate). My understanding is that the Spanish, desperate for hooch, were using their on-board brandy stills to distill un-mixed pulque, hence Mezcal (and Tequila.)
My source for this information is Alcohol: A History by Roderic Phillips, University of North Carolina Press.
I hope I’m not being a PIA–I think you guys be way fine good.
Thank you for teaching me “bagasso”! I was wondering what the fibrous stuff they pack on top of the pinas during roasting was, but didn’t know how to describe it to Google.
Glad to be of help! If you ever have any other terminology questions, just ask!
The word Mezcal means cooked agave, and comes from the words “Metl: Maguey” und “Ixcally: cooked” from the nahuatl lenguaje, where its combined as “Mexcalli”. Why is it writen Mezcal in Spanish, because, the word in Nahualt is written: (me-šcal-tli) so this little accent over the “S” makes a phoneme “z”similar to the phoneme “th” in english, which in spanish from spain has a similar sound. Both words are accepted in english though. In Spain they write Mexico: “Méjico” and it is accepted, so the rules can vary from country to country even with the same lenguaje.
Is there a difference between the terms Mezcalero and palenquero? As i see it a mezcalero would be the distiller with the maestro mezcalero being the equivalent of a the Master Distiller while a palenquero is a mezcal producer. They may be the same in a small production house but not in some of the larger scale ones….is that the right understanding?
Great question! Mezcalero and Palenquero mean the same thing. In Oaxaca, the places where mezcal is made is traditionally called a Palenque. In other states it is called a vinata and the makers therefore are called vinateros. A maestro mezcalero is a more modern term and it can mean the actual distiller or the person who oversees the whole process but doesn’t necessarily make the mezcal, if that makes sense.
So that means the persons who are ‘technically’ involves with the production of mezcal are called Mezcaleros or palenqueros. Is Fabricas another term for a place where mezcal is produced?
It means they are the people making the mezcal. A fabrica is a general term for a factory or a place where something is manufactured, so sometimes you will hear that word even though it is not a term specific to mezcal or the making of mezcal like palenque or vinata or even taberna.
Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.