Tequila is the national drink of Mexico and it is worldwide famous for its taste and spirit. Though tequila is not the only drink produced in Mexico. The northern provinces of Mexico are famous for producing a different alcoholic beverage and it is called Sotol. Some beverage experts call it the northern cuisine of tequila. Well, that may be considered because both drinks are Native Mexican drinks.
Sotol is the distilled spirit in which Dasylirion wheeleri, Asparagaceae is used as the primary ingredient. This plant is also famous as the Desert Spoon and the Spanish people call it Sotol. This plant grows in the New Mexico region, Northern provinces of Mexico and also in the western Texas. The Native Mexicans call it the state drink of Chihuahua, Coahuila and Durango. The way of producing is similar to the way of producing Mezcals. So, let’s explore some more fascinating facts about Sotol.
What is Sotol ?
Some individuals may consider Sotol another type of tequila, but it is not tequila. It also has no relation with Mezcals. Both tequila and Mezcal is prepared from agave and Sotol is produced from the Desert Spoon plant. There is a big difference and the native people have been producing Sotol for more than a thousand years. People often start cuisine comparison between desert spoon and agave plant. They think that both plants belong to the same family and that’s a wrong assumption. The desert spoon plant belongs to lily family and that’s why it has no connection with the agave plant.
The locations, where tequila, mescal and stool are produced, are also different. The tequila drink is produced in the southern and the central provinces of Mexico. Only southern Mexico produces Sotol and that’s why there is a big difference between both drinks.
Why Sotol is not as popular as tequila or mezcal?
Sotol has a long history and the native Mexicans taste it on many occasions, but still Sotol is not quite popular in the USA. Even experts are confused about the popularity of this Mexican drink because other spirits of Mexico have got huge fame across the world. The experts say that the chances of increase in Sotol’s popularity are also quite low. Suppose this drink gains name and fame equivalent to tequila, the suppliers would not be able to meet the demands of this drink. The existing producers of this drink are already getting failed in meeting the supply demands and that’s why it would not be fair to enhance the demands for this drink. Of course, the producers supply this drink outside Mexico, but not in a very large quantity.
Some USA based beverage experts have explained the main reason behind limited supply of Sotol. According to them, the desert spoon plant is the root of the issue. This plant takes minimum 15 years to mature and the Sotol producers cannot harvest it before that age of the plant. A whole mature plant is used for producing only one bottle of Sotol and that’s why it becomes really difficult to harvest enough plants for supplying a large batch of sotol bottles.
Another fact that beverage experts explain is that the ABV (Alcohol by Volume) percentage of Sotol cannot be same. The ABV percentage can vary bottle by bottle and the bar owners cannot sale a liquor that doesn’t have a fix ABV percentage. The State Liquor Authority in the USA approves selling of a drink. The Sotol may or may not get approved due to its weird properties and that’s why it is not as famous as tequila or mezcal.
How is Sotol produced?
The method of producing Sotol is not quite different from brewing methods of tequila or mezcal. All of these three drinks are brewed in the same way. The producers first remove the outer leaves of the desert spoon plant. Thus, only stem remains in the plant and this stem is cooked to extract its liquid. The extracted liquid is fermented and distilled into the distilleries. The producers store the produced sotol in the barrel and then age it for 1-3 years. This is how Sotol is produced and only Chihuahua State of Mexico has rights of producing the Sotol. You cannot call it Sotol, if this drink is produced in any other state of Mexico or other countries.
The flavor profile of both sotol and tequila is comparable. However, the producers use different ingredients in producing Sotol and Tequila, their taste still seems quite similar to each other. That’s why many people get puzzled in realizing that Sotol is not tequila. No one can get confused between Sotol and Mezcal because both taste different and both are prepared from different plants. Mezcal is produced from agave plant and Sotol from dessert spoon. The producers cook desert spoon in normal ovens and that’s why this drink doesn’t has smokiness of mezcal.
The renowned producers of Sotol:
There are two famous companies, which have been producing Sotol in Chihuahua province for many centuries. Both are explained below.
They operate from Janos town in Northern Chihuahua. It is Jacquez family, which has been producing Sotol for many years. They sell this drink under Don Cuco and Ocho Cientos labels. It was Don Refugio Perez, who had started the distillery during 1984. He was famous as Don Cuco and after him; his family has handled the business of producing Sotol. Today Celso Jacquez handles the business and he supplies Sotol across the Mexico and other countries.
The Don Cuco sotol reminds the taste of Oaxacan Mezcals and Sonora’s Bacanora, but still it contains the unique flavor of the desert spoon plant. This family follows the traditional fermentation and distillation methods to maintain the aroma and complexity of the drink. The distilleries in which the Jacquez family produces sotol are open for the visitors. You can visit there and see how the Sotol drink is produced. It will be an amazing experience, but do not expect any special tour like the tequila tours.
Some renowned products of Don Cuco Sotol:
- Sotol Suave
- Sotol Traditional
- Sotol Crema
Hacienda de Chihuahua:
When it comes to buy Sotol, which is more refined than the Sotol produced by traditional methods, people buy Hacienda de Chihuahua. Vinomex produces and sells Sotol under this label and it is another famous brand of sotol in Mexico. The distillery is situated in Delicias town of Chihuahua. This brand belongs to Jose Daumas Gil. He has got masters’ degree from École Nationale Supérieure Agronomique and he has worked for the renowned brandy companies. The production of brandy was stopped in Chihuahua and thus he had began production of Sotol in the region.
Gil had supervised an advanced method of producing Sotol and this has grabbed attention of the liquor lovers. The desert spoon plants are first cooked in steam-heated ovens and then fermented with champagne yeast. His company uses reflux column still for the distillation process and that’s how Hacienda de Chihuahua Sotol is produced. The Sotols produced by Gil’s company, offer impressive quality, better purity, smoother taste and unforgivable taste of the real Sotol. He follows modern techniques to improve the quality of the Sotol and that’s why his brand is more popular in the market.
How to drink Sotol:
The beverage experts always suggest that you should drink Sotol at room temperature and that’s how you can reveal its true taste. Of course, you can put an ice cube in the glass and pour the Sotol over it. Now let it be cool a little bit and then taste it. This will be an amazing experience for you. People, who have tasted Sotol, loved it and demanded for one more shot and that’s what you will do after tasting it.
Where to find Sotol?
There will be no problem in finding the Sotol, if you are visiting Mexico. The two main producers of this drink supply it across Mexico and in some provinces of the USA. You can visit a bar in Mexico and order for the Sotol. The bartender will ask for the brand and then serve it. Sometimes this drink seems like rare liquor because it is not produced as much as tequila. It is a mystery for them, who have never tasted it and it is memorable taste for them, who have tasted it. Both Don Cuco and Hacienda de Chihuahua brands have official sites. You can go online and place order for a bottle of Sotol. First, you will have to verify your age and then you can purchase it online.
Some quick facts about Sotol:
We have already mentioned necessary information on this famous Mexican liquor, but still some facts are not revealed. You should check these facts to know more about Sotol.
- Sotol is called the true spirit of Mexico because it was originated in Mexico and it is produced in Mexico. There is no other country that produces Sotol and that’s why it has the Mexican domination.
- This drink has received Mexican Denominación de Origen during 2004.
- Consejo Mexicano de Sotol is a regulatory body that was formed during 2004. According to it, the Sotol can be produced only in the Northern Mexico. Chihuahua, Durango and Coahuila are the states, where producers can plant distilleries for producing Sotol.
- The number of producers, who use wild desert spoon plants for producing Sotol, is quite low. Only a few use this plant as the primary ingredient for producing the real flavor of Sotol.
- Sotol does not possess smokiness like Mezcals because the desert spoon plant is cooked in above the ground ovens. The producers of Mezcal do not follow the same process that’s why Mezcal possesses smokiness.
- You should not waste any drop of Sotol because a whole plant is required for producing one bottle of Sotol. Usually, a desert spoon plant takes at-least 15 years to get in mature state. So, it is a valuable drink and it requires huge patience to produce it.
- Not all the Sotol producers can sell their products in the United States of America. Only a few brands supply their Sotols in this nation and all of them produce Sotol in Chihuahua State of Mexico.
The notable difference between tequila and sotol:
People may mistakenly consider Sotol as tequila, but both are different liquors. There are several characteristics of Sotol, which differentiate it from tequila. Let’s explore some notable differences between these two drinks.
- The renowned producers of Sotol use only Desert Spoon plant’s stem to produce sotol. On the other hand, tequila is prepared from cooked agave plant.
- Sotol is produced in the Northern states of Mexico and Tequila is produced in the southern states of Mexico.
- Both Sotol and tequila look similar, but their flavors are different and you can easily recognize the difference between the flavors of tequila and Sotol.
- The brewing methods of tequila and Sotol are similar, but Sotol is not produced as much as tequila. Only 15 year old desert spoon plants are used to produce Sotol and that’s why it takes time to produce a large batch of Sotol bottles.
- The producers use double column copper distillation for distilling Sotol, but tequila is distilled in pot stills.
The producers may distill Sotol more than one time to produce different flavors, but tequila is mostly distilled once.
- Sotol has been named on its primary ingredient Sotol plant or desert spoon plant. The names of tequila and its primary ingredients have no connection with each other.
- A specific type of Sotol can also be used as the kosher product, but tequila’s any known flavor can’t be used as kosher product.
Sotol is not mexcal or tequila, it is a unique Mexican drink and it has got fame for its unique way of production. You may not find Sotol in every bar of Mexico or the USA because it is a rare kind of drink. It tastes different and it tastes great. We have tasted some shots of Sotol and we have found it an awesome companion for delicious Mexican cuisines.