Last Updated on August 22, 2023 by Lydia Martin
Over five million liters of mezcal have been exported to more than 50 countries worldwide for the past five years.
Many see mezcal’s potency and smokiness as enticing, thus the increase in its production directly competing with tequila, another strong Mexican spirit.
But is mezcal stronger than tequila? Read on to find out.
Which Is Stronger, Mezcal or Tequila?
Mezcal is stronger than tequila if you base it on its alcohol concentration. Mezcal is pure 100% maguey, which explains the concentrated liquid.
On the other hand, tequila is only required to have at least 51% blue agave plant juice, and the rest can be additives.
Both mezcal and tequila are agave-based spirits that contain high alcohol. However, some drinkers claim mezcals are more potent and can put a person in a drunken state faster than tequilas.
Possible Reasons Why Mezcal is Stronger Than Tequila
Higher Alcohol Concentration
Mezcals do not have more alcohol content than tequila. Mezcal and tequila bottles usually have the same alcohol content or ABV percentage printed on their labels. The ABV of these spirits ranges between 35-55%.
However, Mexican law  requires mezcals to use 100% maguey during the spirit’s production.
No additives are added, not even sugar. This leaves a more concentrated spirit with a stronger flavor compared to tequilas. Tequila, which is a type of mezcal, contains additives. But is tequila a depressant or a stimulant?
The complexity of flavors differs mainly because of the ingredients and the cooking process used in making tequila and mezcal.
Tequilas are sweeter with flavors that are fruitier and more complex. This spirit is from agave tequilana weber, mixed with botanicals, additives, and water. This same plant can be used in making mezcal.
Mezcal, on the other hand, has an earthy and smokey flavor because of the roasted agave ingredient.
Depending on the type of agave plant used, it can influence the taste and produce either floral, vegetal, or smoky flavor.
How Are They Different?
The difference between mezcal and tequila begins with the ingredients. Only blue agave plants from the highlands of Jalisco, Mexico, are used to produce these popular Mexican spirits, tequilas.
These weber blue agave plants can be used with mezcal. That is why tequilas are considered mezcal  but not all mezcal is tequila. Producing mezcal is easier since it can be sourced from over 150 maguey species, including wild varieties.
Espadin is the most common among these plants, which is also a common mezcal variant.
How They Are Made
Tequila is a type of mezcal cooked from ripe agave piña for a minimum of two days in traditional ovens. Wild yeast is normally added to the blue agave during fermentation. The distillation process follows in column stills.
Meanwhile, mezcal is traditionally roasted in underground pits giving it a smoky flavor. Once cooked, it is shredded and fermented. It will then be distilled and filtered before the agave spirit is bottled.
Creating this distilled spirit is similar to how wine grapes are made. A blend of agaves is mixed for this alcoholic beverage. But can you be allergic to tequila?
Place of Origin
One of the key differences between these spirits is the place of origin they could be made.
Tequila can only be labeled tequila if it is made from 100% Blue Weber agave produced in the Mexican state of Jalisco, as well as some municipalities like Nayarit, Colima, and Aguascalientes.
These states are where the land’s topography produces the sweetest blue agave plant (agave piña) used to produce a fine tequila.
Agaves for mezcal production are harvested and processed from nine Mexican States:
- San Luis Potosí
Oaxaca is in Central Mexico and produces most of the agaves used for mezcal production.
- Palate: Smokey and savory, vegetal, floral
- Nose: Alcohol scent, toasted corn, smokey
- Color: Unaged mezcal clear / Añejo and Reposado tanned brown
- Finish: Slow and whiskey-like burn with a vegetal undertone
- Palate: Fruity, earthy, woody, fruity, and sweet
- Nose: Cooked agave, fruity, smokey, woody
- Color: Blanco or unaged clear / Reposado Light Gold / Añejo Vibrant Gold
- Finish: Blanco peppery / Reposado warm, medium-bodied with vanilla / Añejo tequila is layered, smooth, long, and rich
There are three types of mezcals, the regular mezcal produced with modern and industrial technology.
The second is Artisanal which is the fusion of old and new methods but with a couple of prohibitions.
The third is mezcal ancestral, which uses the olden ways where the agaves are cooked underground and distilled in clay pots. The longer and traditional process produce higher quality mezcals as the flavors are more defined.
Tequila, on the other hand, has four types. First is the Joven or Gold Tequila, a mix of tequila Blanco and Reposado. Then, the Blanco or the unaged, bottled after filtration.
Reposado or rested is aged between two months to a year, añejo aged between one to two years, and the Extra Añejo Tequila, aged three years or more.
Most tequila variants are bottled immediately after filtration. Mezcals also have the same age statements as tequila.
The young mezcal is called Joven, and for tequila, it is Blanco.
Those rested or aged between two to twelve months are called mezcal reposado or tequila reposado.
If these distilled spirits are aged inside oak barrels used for white wines for more than a year, they are labeled mezcal or tequila añejo.
How They Are Served
Tequila is a type of drink normally served in shot glasses because Mexicans enjoy them straight or in shots to enjoy its full taste and strength.
These are also mixed in cocktails. Its clear color makes it perfect for any mixed drinks and cocktails. It even blends well when mixed with orange juice.
Meanwhile, mezcal is best enjoyed neat or on the rocks, served in wide-rimmed glasses or Calabash tree shell bowl.
You can add mezcals in cocktails, too, such as the mezcal margarita, but mezcals are not very affordable for cocktails.
Price Point & Value
Tequila is one of the most popular liquors at an affordable price. There are premium tequila bottles that are sold for top dollars. However, most tequila brands have very affordable variants. You can find a bottle of tequila for less than $10.
Mezcal, on the other hand, has a different price range. The difference between tequila and mezcal in price value is almost threefold. There may be more agave breeds used in making mezcals, but these are made in small batches.
Price-wise, a 750 ml bottle of quality mezcal is around $30.
Is mezcal healthier than tequila?
Yes, mezcal is healthier than tequila because it is purer and cleaner. It is considered organic since it is from the agave plant with no additives included.
The sweetness of mezcals is from the ripe fruit of the agave plant. However, drinking it in moderation is still advised despite being a healthier choice.
Does mezcal get you drunker than tequila?
Mezcal does not get you drunker than tequila since tequila and mezcal technically have the same ABV (alcohol by volume).
However, since mezcal is more concentrated, many people perceive this as a stronger spirit. The two have the same strength and can get a person drunk if consumed fast.
Does mezcal taste stronger than tequila?
Yes. Mezcal can taste stronger than tequila because it has a more savory and richer flavor. It uses the natural sweetness of the agave, resulting in a smooth, balanced, smokey flavor.
Tequila has a sweeter taste because of the sugar and honey added to enhance the taste.
Mezcals are more concentrated than tequilas because they are distilled and bottled in their pure form. It means that tequilas have extenders or additives for taste enhancement. This typically leads most people to believe that mezcal is stronger than tequila.
Tequilas go through second or third filtration to increase the alcohol contents before getting bottled. Mezcal producers have a more savory and potent product that is now slowly competing against tequila.
However, mezcal is technically not stronger than tequila because tequila and mezcal are bottled with the same ABV (alcohol by volume) per bottle. In fact, there is a particular tequila brand with 75% ABV, stronger than a regular mezcal.