Vodka comes from potatoes; rum, from sugarcane; and mescal, from the maguey plant? That's right. Mezcal, the high-alcohol Mexican liquor is made from the same type of plant that produces agave syrup and tequila. The piña, or heart of the maguey plant, is squeezed to extract juices that are then fermented to make the 110-proof drink. Mezcal is traditionally consumed straight but is sometimes accompanied by salt and a squeeze of lime or orange. It has a smoky flavor and is not for the faint of heart. Most mezcal brands still are made in the Oaxaca region of Mexico; tastes vary from village to village. Sometimes a worm is placed in the bottle during production just as it is with tequila. Mezcal is trendy among mixologists; several bars devoted to it have opened up cities like Los Angeles and New York. In August 2010 the New York Times even called it the "Next Big Thing." We'll drink to that.
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