A Short Excursion Into History
Mezcal is a mestizo beverage, meaning its roots go back to European and indigenous traditions, thereby creating a new, “native” product.
Alcohol in Pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica
Agaves have been used in many ways by American peoples for thousands of years. The plant has been used to produce clothing, shoes, paper, building materials, tools and much more. It remains an important component of indigenous cuisine and was already used in pre-Hispanic times for the production of pulque, an alcoholic beverage made from fermented agave juice (e.g. from Agave mapisaga and Agave salmiana). Its consumption was closely connected to religious rituals and reserved for certain social classes. The agave itself, Mesoamerican cultures believed to be spirited by the goddess Mayahuel. (That's it for the old gods, I promise!)
The Spanish conquistadors brought the distillation technique to America, which they themselves had learned from the Moors. The Arabic words alambique (pot still) and alcohól refer to this origin. However, the possibility that distillation was already known in Mesoamerica in pre-Columbian times has recently been discussed.
In any case, the techniques for producing spirits, which have been preserved or developed since the conquest of Mexico around 1520, are highly diverse. While the copper pot stills used follow European models, ceramic stills are also common in Asia, except in Mexico. They are said to have arrived on the west coasts of Mexico around 1600 with Philippine slaves in order to distill tuba (i.e., arrack) from palm wine. Pot stills with internal condensation from natural materials are still called alambique filipino.
Mezcal, Tequila and the Protected Designations of Origin