Mezcal vs. Tequila – Flavor Profiles, Food Pairings, & More

Texas is known for its love of tequila–according to stats, only California drinks more of it than we do! 

But have you explored the unique flavor profile of mezcal? 

Mezcal is Mexico’s most traditional agave spirit and perhaps its most nontra­ditional in terms of the drinker experience. It can surprise, delight, and amaze with its extreme range, showing terroir as few others do. 

Don’t put mezcal in a corner, folks. It is far more than just tequila’s smoky cousin. 

Tequila vs. Mezcal – What’s the difference anyway? 

Actually, that’s a bit of a trick question. Tequila is a type of mezcal. Mezcal, on the other hand, covers a broad category of agave-based spirits. 

Mezcal is primarily distilled in clay pots using underground pits (giving it all that delicious smoky flavor), while tequila is distilled in copper pots.  

While mezcal can be produced in many different areas of Mexico (from a diverse variety of agave varietals), tequila is a bit more specific. It is made only from the blue agave plant–and it has to be sourced (with a few exceptions) from the Mexican state of Jalisco. 

You can think of this the same way you might a Bourbon or Scotch. If we were to ask what the difference between Scotch and whiskey is, you would say that Scotch is a type of whiskey. But you would also go on to elaborate on what makes Scotch its own category within the canon of whiskey. 

Pairing Tequila & Mezcal With Food-A Quick & Dirty Guide

Mezcal is a darling when it comes to food pairings, as many chefs can attest. But to know how to pair it with your food, you have to think about mezcal the same way you do about wines–it is all about the varietal. For wines, this boils down to grapes. For mezcal, it boils down to the type of agave plant used–and even the region it is sourced from. 

Depending on which agave plant was used in making the mezcal, you might see nuances that are more smoky, fruity, lighter, or bolder. Sounds like wine, right?

Blue agave plants.

But Texans have this much simpler. Just about all mezcal you can find here in The LoneStar State is from the Oaxacan area–and primarily from the Agave Angustifoliav varietal.  This means that you are just about sure to discover the flavor profile to be quite smoky and herbaceous. 

Food pairings that work well with this include: 

Oaxacan Food – For obvious reasons, dishes that hail from Oaxacan mezcal’s home pair well with the spirit. A rich mole can be an especially heavenly experience. 

Seafood – The light smokiness of mezcal makes it the perfect pairing for seafood. 

Barbecue – Skip the beer on your next backyard cookout and try mezcal! The natural smoky flavor, whether herby, fruity, or flowery, lends itself well to the natural flavors of the grill. 

Pasta dishes – Again, the smoky flavors lend themselves well to meatier pasta dishes. So think lasagna or spaghetti bolognese. 

Dessert – Mezcal pairs beautifully with just about any dessert, from pastries to decadent chocolate tarts. But we think it is especially delightful when you pair it with anything containing vanilla–something about this pairing pulls out the often overlooked spicy and sweet notes of mezcal. 

Dark chocolate sits on a clay plate

When it comes to tequila, you can get away with many different food pairings depending on the type of tequila. In some ways, you can think of food pairings for tequila the same way you do wine. The lighter-colored, silver tequila goes well with the same things you might pair with a glass of white wine: 

  • Tacos
  • Ceviche
  • Grilled veggies
  • Guacamole

On the other hand, Anejo tequila is aged in wood and has a deeper, earthier flavor. In this way, you can think of it like a complex red wine. It is better paired with more hearty flavors such as: 

  • Steaks
  • Chocolate
  • Other rich desserts

Explore the world of mezcals and tequila through food… 

Our Austin chefs love to experiment with flavor profiles and drink pairings. If you’ve got a summer event coming up,  we’d love to discuss an exciting menu with you.


Hibiscus Mint Mojitos for the Holidays

What’s a little spicy, a little sweet and 100% stylish? The Austin Artisan Hibiscus Mint Mojito! As the year comes to a close, we’re toasting to a deliciously successful 2016. And in the process, we’ve reimaged everyone’s favorite cocktail for the festive season.

Our Hibiscus Mint Mojito is kissed by that quintessential winter-mint flavor, with a kick of ginger and a touch of sweetness. Unlike a typical mojito, hibiscus lends an herbal essence—and ravishing red hue—that puts a holiday spin on a Cuban classic.

If you’re planning a dinner or celebration, you’ll want to add this one to the menu. You can fill out the bar with beer, wine and spirits, or you can serve this singular cocktail, prepared to perfection. Make your life even easier by mixing a large batch. Label it, and let your guests pour over ice as they please.

Plus, are you on the hunt for the perfect gift? Check out our cocktail recipe and then learn more about our top present pick for your loved ones—or yourself!

Hibiscus Mint Mojito

Serves 1

All It Takes

Tito’s Vodka to taste
4 oz. Nile Valley Hibiscus Mint Tea
2 oz. white grape juice
1 bottle Maine Root Ginger Beer 

Let’s Get Mixing

  1. In a Collins or Highball glass, mix vodka, tea and juice over ice.
  2. Top with the beer. Adjust juice and beer to taste to achieve the right balance of sweet and spice!

Searching for a one-size-fits-all stocking stuffer?

How about an Austin Artisan Gift Certificate? From busy families and new moms to corporate professionals and friends who simply can’t cook, it’s the perfect present for everyone on your list. Better yet, treat yourself to a Personal Chef Service to help you get back on track in the New Year. Contact us to purchase a gift certificate, or fill out our Food Questionnaire to get started.

Old Fashioned w/ Citrus Confit

When I sip an Old Fashioned, I can’t help but conjure images of Mad Men, 19th century America, and the fall of prohibition. While this cocktail has been around since the 1800s, it’s hard to classify it as, well, old. Nearly two centuries later, and the trendiest bars across the country are still serving this distinguished libation—or putting their own riff on the original. The Artisans wanted in!

The basic recipe is prepared by muddling sugar, bitters, and a few drops of water. You add the whiskey (or Bourbon) and ice, shake, and pour it into an Old Fashioned glass. Of course it has it’s own glass! Traditionally, the finished product is garnished with an orange slice and a Maraschino cherry. This is where we decided to make our mark.

Instead of filling the glass with fruit, we created a citrus confit that deepens the integrity of the cocktail. It’s made by boiling citrus rinds to yield a jam-like consistency. You can then dollop it into your Old Fashioned for a brighter, more refreshing twist on this timeless classic. The best part? You don’t have you wait for summer to make it. What you may not know is that citrus is actually seasonal in the winter – meaning right now!

So go ahead and serve my Old Fashioned w/ Citrus Confit at your next cocktail party, as a digestif, or after a long day at the ad agency (I mean, office).

Citrus Confit

  • 1 grapefruit
  • 1 orange
  • 1 lemon
  • salt
  • sugar
  1. Remove the rinds from all of the fruit. Dice the rinds and submerge them in a pot with heavily salted water (2:1 salt to water ratio). Bring just to a boil.

  2. Set the rinds aside and clean the pot. Add the rinds back in, and cover them with water and sugar (1:1 sugar to water ratio). Slowly simmer until it yields a thick jam-like consistency. Cool.

Put it together

Prepare your favorite Old Fashioned recipe. Add 1 tsp. of Citrus Confit, stir gently, and garnish with fresh rind. If you don’t have a go-to recipe, we like this one:

Reserve Old Fashioned

Reserve Old Fashioned: Prepare the cocktail up to step 2. Refer to our Citrus Confit recipe for the rest!