The popular Mexican saying goes that "para todo mal mezcal, para todo bien también" (for every bad mezcal, for every good too), because, despite the industrialization that beverages considered for alcoholic consumption have undergone, mezcal has remained one of the beverages that preserve to this day an artisanal process in its production, with a history dating back to colonial times. The distillate has positioned itself as one of the most representative products of the country and converges with a wide range of dishes of Mexican gastronomy.
The distillation process of the mezcal-producing magueys reached what is now Mexican territory around the 16th century with the introduction of the processes for the manufacture of distilled spirits by the Spanish conquistadors. But it was not until the 18th-century that mezcal became a commonly consumed beverage in Mexico, reaching national and international popularity until recent years.
Although there is no exact formula for its production, it is recognized that the distillation of traditional mezcal comes from the fermented juice of the so-called cooked agave heads or piñas. For this, in general, the following techniques are used: selection of the maguey, baking, and grinding of the cooked piñas, fermentation, and distillation. However, it is also true that there are small differences in terms of the variety of maguey and tools, as well as the type of milling and oven used.
However, the consumption and production of mezcal had their first boom at the beginning of the 20th century. It was then promoted as a popular drink at the time of the Mexican Revolution, years in which the processes and improvements for the elaboration of mezcal, as well as instrumentation to carry out the procedure, began to be registered before the patent office. All this knowledge for mezcal production was registered as part of the documentation that makes up the Patents and Trademarks documentary fund kept in the General Archive of the Nation.
The documents describe various procedures and techniques that were provisionally patented in the 1900s for the production of Mezcal. Among them is the application to register the preparation of a mezcal called "Cuauhtémoc", produced by carving the fibers of lechuguilla pulp and palm fronds of the maguey, instead of using the traditional agave pineapple, a procedure that, the author claimed, was unprecedented for preparing this type of beverage.
Another preparation method for this drink is called "mezcal de pechuga", which incorporates a chicken or turkey breast in the distillation process, giving off vapors that add the distinctive flavors of this mezcal. Within this category of mezcals, there is a file that records the incorporation of almonds as a base ingredient to create a "mezcal de pechuga almendrado", as well as mixing fruits such as raisins and plums; spices such as cinnamon, cloves, and burnt sugar, all this to create a flavor known as fruity and give it a dark color.
In the same way, patents for mezcal ovens can be found. Its main function was to improve the heating procedures and to enrich the production of mezcal utilizing a vessel with more modern pipes that gave an adequate exhaust to the vapors emitted through regulating valves. Although it was considered a more industrialized process, it did not contravene the traditional process of the master mezcaleros for the elaboration of the beverage.
Although mezcal is currently produced in several regions of Mexico, the Mexican Mezcal Quality Regulatory Council (COMERCAM) considers that only eight states in the country have the denomination of original mezcal producers, with Zacatecas, Durango, Guerrero, Michoacán, San Luis Potosí, Guanajuato, Tamaulipas and Oaxaca being the most representative territories for their artisanal production and variety of presentations.