What is the difference between Tequila and Mezcal?

Mezcal is gaining ground on tequila in American bars. While the two Mexican spirits are both made from agave, that's where the similarities end. Here are the key differences between these two spirits.

Tequila is a type of mezcal, much like how scotch and bourbon are types of whiskey. According to spirits writer John McEvoy, mezcal is defined as any agave-based liquor. This includes tequila, which is made in specific regions of Mexico and must be made from only blue agave (agave tequilana).

Originating from Mexico, both tequila and mezcal have the same roots and are made from the agave plant. However, there’s a lot more to them which makes the two distinct alcohols see a soaring demand in the global market. Wondering what the difference is between these Mexican spirits? Check out our guide to know all about tequila and mezcal.


If you enjoy tequila shots with salt and fresh lime juice, then chances are you have heard of mezcal, its elder cousin, as well. The bottom line which generally differentiates the two spirits is that tequila is a type of mezcal, but not all mezcal is tequila. 

Basically, any alcoholic drink made from agave plants is termed mezcal. Under this broad umbrella term comes drinks like sotol, bacanora, raicilla and tequila. But their specifics make a world of difference for their fans.

Knowing all the differences will not only make you more adept at choosing from the two Mexican spirits but also make you understand the reason behind their renown across the world.

Both mezcal and tequila are agave-based spirits, which have a strong connection with Mexican culture and tradition.


The agave plant, with its tall green spiky leaves, forms the base for both the drinks, which are essentially made from the piña or the round pineapple-like stem. Over 30 types of agave plants can be used to produce mezcal. Some of them are tobalá, tobaziche, tepeztate, arroqueño and espadín. Espadín makes up for the most commonly used plant and has a very slow rate of ripening, which can take up to six to seven years. The agave

On the other hand, in order to qualify as tequila, the liquor has to be made only from the blue weber agave, also known as agave tequilana or only blue agave. Till today, the harvesting process of the blue agave plant is an art which is passed down through generations. Once ripe, the harvester uses a sharp curved tool called coa to cut the leaves and extract the piña. 

The blue agave is harvested the same as any other agave plant, but its unique taste and cooking method make tequila different from mezcal.