Do you consider yourself as a worldly drinker? If you do, then you must be well aware of the exotic alcohol drinks like absinthe and grappa. You might have tried the entire liqueurs that are shelved in your favorite bar, but there are still a few spirits that you have not heard of. So for your new adventure, here is a list of seven highly uncommon alcoholic drinks that you can add to your booze bucket list.
Any distilled spirit that is made using the agave plant is known as mezcal, so bacanora, tequila, and pulque are all mezcals. As it is an internationally well-known Denomination of Origin since 1995, mezcal can only be produced in eight distinct regions in Mexico. Although it has been regulated within Mexico since 1994 and is overseen by the COMERCAM, it was officially certified only in 2005. The drink can be made from any type of agave plant, but sufficient amount of sugar is required to make it work. It is usually made by roasting the hearts of plants, known as the pina, in earthen stone-lined pits, which gives the drink a smoky flavor. Pina is then crushed and left to ferment with water present in a barrel. Before bottling, the liquid is distilled. To make mezcal, agave can be chosen from about forty to fifty different varieties. Currently, around seventy mezcal brands are imported to the USA.
Tequila is another distilled beverage that can only be produced by using the agave tequilana (blue agave) that is also known as the century plant. It has an internationally recognized Denomination of Origin which was granted in 1978, so tequila can be made in only five designated regions of Mexico. The process of regulation within Mexico began in the 1940s and has been updated periodically over the years. While the good drinks contain 100% agave, tequila contains 51% agave. The hearts of agave are pressure cooked with tequila in huge industrial ovens that are recognized as autoclaves. The cooking does not add or change any particular flavor characteristic in the produced tequila. Around fifteen thousand tequila drinks are imported to the US.
Sotol is made up of the Dasylirion wheeleri plant that is also referred to as the sotol plant or Desert Spoon. It is a stem succulent plant associated with agave and yucca. Formerly included in the agave family, the plant is now recognized as one of the members of the Nolinaceae family. This brings us to the conclusion that since sotol does not use agave for its production, it is not a mezcal. The sotol plant takes around fifteen years to mature and usually, one plant only produces one bottle. Comparatively, for mezcal and tequila, one plant is sufficient to fill five to ten bottles. Typically, sotol plant grows on the rocky slopes of the Chihuahuan Desert grassland between 3000 to 6500 feet above the sea level. The external leaves of the plant are cut out to reveal the central core that is taken to the distillery, where the core can be steamed, cooked, shredded, fermented and lastly, distilled. Only a very few brands of sotol are imported into America, among which Hacienda de Chihuahua is the most significant one.
Bacanora has the main ingredient wild agave pacifica, which is also known by many other names such as agave angustifolia, agave yaquiana and bacanora. It is a plant that can be found growing in the mountain range in the Sonora state. Since it is made from agave, this drink can be considered a mezcal. The name bacanora comes from a town in Sonora called Bacanora. The production of the drink was legalized on 6 November 1992, while it earned the Mexican Denomination of Origin in the year 2000, but not an international one. The plant’s pina is harvested and roasted in a volcanic rock-lined pit for about two days. Next, it is mashed and placed in airtight cemented pits of fresh water for fermentation for a couple of weeks. In the end, it is distilled using stainless steel many times. The bacanora brands that can be commonly found in the US include Cielo Rojo.
The Mexican distilled spirit raicilla is made in the seven municipalities of Jalisco and is more often than not associated with the Puerta Vallarta area. It is produced from agave inaequidens or agave lechuguilla and agave maximiliana or agave pata de mula. The mezcal drink is often known as agave raicilla. It does not possess Denomination of Origin. Similar to the production of mezcal, in the making of raicilla, the hearts of wild agave are harvested first. Next, they are fire-roasted and fermented. Finally, they are distilled. The most widely known raicilla brand is the Destilador del Real.
Unlike mezcal and tequila, pulque is not a distilled agave product. It is a fermented alcohol product made from aguamiel, which is the sweet raw sap directly coming from the heart of the agave plant. Aguamiel is translated as “honey water.” The drink has a milky color and sour taste, somewhat like yeast. It can be drunk on its own or as a cocktail with nuts and fruits. With an Alcohol by Volume (ABV) of three to eight percent, the alcoholic content is similar to that in beer. Pulque does not have Denomination of Origin. Canned pulque can be found in the US. According to the appearances in stone carvings from 200AD, the drink is claimed to be originated more than a thousand years ago.
It is another alcoholic spirit that is derived from sugarcane and is somewhat identical to rum. It is made by the distillation and rectification of sugarcane, which is later fermented. The resulting product is a colorless crystalline spirit. Charanda has Denomination of Origin since the year 2003. It comes in various brands such as Tres Extra, Tarasco, and Uruapan.