Mezcal (or mescal) (
Agaves or magueys are found mainly in many parts of Mexico and all the way down to the equator, though most mezcal is made in
It is unclear whether distilled drinks were produced in Mexico before the
Today, mezcal is still made from the heart of the agave plant, called the piña, much the same way it was 200 years ago. In Mexico, mezcal is generally consumed straight and has a strong smoky flavor. Though mezcal is not as popular as
The agave was one of the most sacred plants in pre-Spanish Mexico, and had a privileged position in religious rituals, mythology and the economy. Cooking of the "piña" or heart of the agave and fermenting its juice was practiced. The origin of this drink has a myth. It is said that a lightning bolt struck an agave plant, cooking and opening it, releasing its juice. For this reason, the liquid is called the "elixir of the gods". However, it is not certain whether the native peoples of Mexico had any distilled liquors prior to the Spanish Conquest.
Upon introduction, these liquors were called
Sugarcane and grapes, key ingredients for beverage alcohol, were two of the earliest crops introduced into the New World, but their use as source stocks for distillation was opposed by the
The drinking of alcoholic beverages such as pulque was strongly restricted in the pre-Hispanic period. Taboos against drinking to excess fell away after the conquest, resulting in problems with public drunkenness and disorder. This conflicted with the government's need for the tax revenue generated by sales, leading to long intervals promoting manufacturing and consumption, punctuated by brief periods of severe restrictions and outright prohibition.
Travelers during the colonial period of Mexico frequently mention mezcal, usually with an admonition as to its potency.