Photo by Thomas C. Card
Mezcal was once the poor cousin to tequila, but no more. Made from the fermented juice of the piña—or core—of the agave plant, it has rapidly displaced tequila (essentially mezcal, but made from blue agave) as the tipple of choice for young Mexicans. “Mezcal brings happiness to the soul,” says Ricardo Muñoz Zurita, a food historian and chef who stocks 35 varieties in his Mexico City restaurants.
A few of Zurita’s favorites include Tobala, harvested from a variety of agave found only at the highest altitudes (tobala means “under the shadow”), and Pechuga de Pollo, a mezcal distilled with raw chicken breast, along with soft fruits, nuts, and grains. Whatever the chicken adds to the final product, the end result is sweet and soft in the mouth, with a lovely cream sherry aftertaste. Served with a slice of chile-spiked orange, either of these makes for a terrific aperitif.