Mezcal Dressed as Tequila – A Good, Honest Drink?

I love a good cantina. The doors swing open and you walk into another place and time—a friendly environment where drinking, friendship and conversation get respect, a place where you can go whether you are alone or with a crowd.

Montejo Cantina, Mexico City

The bar at the Montejo Restaurante Bar has more tequila than most cantinas in Mexico City.

Here, there are no pretentious people, fancy $15 cocktails, or throbbing music you have to scream over to be heard. Instead, you get a straight-faced cantinero who has been there forever, serving straight, honest drinks, like tequila.

This was just the place we were in the mood for the other night when we slipped into a cantina named Montejo Restaurante Bar, in Colonia Condesa. It’s not as old and classic as many of the cantinas in Mexico City, but the service, atmosphere and bar did the trick. In fact, Montejo has a wider tequila selection than many bars here, and by that I mean 24 bottles, rather than six or eight.

Montejo's tequila selection.

The lineup of tequilas behind the bar at Montejo Restaurante Bar in Mexico City.

We settled in with a Siete Leguas reposado and a Centinela reposado, and proceeded to enjoy the sangrita (just spicy enough) and delicious salted, oily peanuts which are a cantina must-have, in my opinion.

It was a Monday night but the place was hopping—after work crowds eating dinner, couples enjoying straight tequilas and snacks, and a live band.

Siete Leguas and Centinella

Siete Leguas reposado (left) and Centinela reposado were the first drinks we ordered.

Two tables over a young man was making a show of ordering up some mezcal, inspecting the bottle and sampling it as though it were a fine wine. This caught our eye, not only because it was unusual, but also because the mezcal bottle had a Patron-like lime-colored tag on its neck. We would have seen what all the fuss was about, but the table emptied the bottle and there was none left to sample. Instead, the waiter brought over another mezcal, Zignum reposado.

Zignum reposado, a mezcal

Our final drink of the night was a shot of Zignum reposado, a mezcal that tastes just like tequila.

After our last mezcal experience, we had our doubts, but we gave it a smell and were shocked to detect no smoky mezcal nose. The smoke is always what kills it for us, so we couldn’t resist ordering a shot. My first impression was that it was sweet, like honey, vanilla and mint, and smoke-free

“What is this?” Grover asked. “It tastes like an añejo tequila.”

Soon, we were inspecting the bottle—it was stamped with “100% agave” and carried an organic label—hell, it even had a NOM, just like tequila.

Uh-oh, I thought. If someone can make a mezcal that tastes like tequila, is labeled similarly (enough that the consumer can’t tell the difference), priced cheaper and unburdened with stringent regulations, what does this mean for tequila?

We pondered this on our walk home. When we arrived, we immediately looked up the brand online, only to find that Zignum mezcal is made by Coca-Cola.

Is Coca-Cola also in the tequila business and we don’t know about it? Obviously, it saw an opportunity in the burgeoning mezcal market and pounced.

Something about this just doesn’t sit right. Mezcal dressed up to look like tequila is an insult to both mezcal purists and tequila purists. But maybe not—maybe the purists don’t matter and this is just a way of presenting a spirit in a new way.

Whichever it is, I can’t help wonder, if cantineros only serve straight, honest drinks, what’s this?

(We know you have some thoughts so please share!)

-Scarlet

5 Responses to “Mezcal Dressed as Tequila – A Good, Honest Drink?”

  1. Im the maneger of a convinient store here in texas we try and carry a wide veraity of wine since are linces permits up too 17% two days ago my l&f sales rep told me they wer going to start carrong a tequila I could not belive it. As sone as they do cary it ill buy a bottle and see what it realy is im guessing its a mix.

    Reply

  2. zignum is not a mezcal!! fake!!!
    tequila lovers should know more about the origins of tequila, wich is a mezcal because the simple fact that any spirit made with agave(plenty of them) is a mezcal!
    50-60 years ago tequila became famous and suddenly people star to call it just tequila isntead “vino mezcal de tequila” again… just one of many!
    zigmun taste like a reposado because is made in the industrial way!
    with “autoclave”
    not allways with mature agave, in fact its so complicated to find fine tequila made with mature agave!
    they aged their “mezcal” in french oak or some wood like that!
    the ponit is: for hundrens of years people drinked and still drink mezcales jovenes with a lot of kinds of ageves, even in tequila! not just Agave Tequilana weber azul but Agave Patamulae, agave americana, agave , agave ineaquidens knows in comun name as chino, azul, mano larga, pie de mula, chato, bermejo, sigüin and if they want to aged they used to use glass, never wood.
    this variety of agaves give us a hundrens of aromas and flavors.
    now a days people is startin’ to drink mezzcales again findin a spirit so complex with multiples taste, they just have to find their own mezcal, the mezcal they like and we could find very nice tequilas made the old way that are great! delicious! we just have to search and open our minds!
    people of tastetequila.com: i want to offer you a cata of diferents mezcales made with tequilana weber azul but with another kind of technics(old ones) just to taste something else and have more fundaments the confirm your love for this magnificents spirits! with the best intencions! daniel….. buena suerte

    Reply

    • Why is it fake? There is no rule that says mezcal has to be smoky. It is 100% agave espadin, not weber, thus making it mezcal. I actually found this mezcal to be quite good for the price. Definitely tastes more like tequila and not what I would expect from a mezcal, but still pretty good.

      Reply

  3. Have you tried Ortigoza Joven? I believe it is a tequila, but the joven leads me to believe it may be a mezcal, mainly because I only see that term used to describe mezcals. My mom brought me a bottle from Mexico, with an ABV of 35%. I have to say it is one of the most delicious tequilas I have ever tasted, but can find almost no information about it. I’ve also acquired a bottle of Revolucion Reposado, and while I enjoy it, I miss the smooth, smokiness of the Ortigoza.

    Great site by the way!

    Reply

    • Hi Justin. Ortigoza is a tequila, and joven is a classification of tequila. There are 4 types from Ortigoza and they are all listed in the free Tequila Matchmaker mobile app for iPhone and Android.

      Reply

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