23 10 LINKEDIN 1 COMMENTMORE

CNN - Fans of Mexican adult beverages have a message for the world: move over tequila, there's a new sheriff in town, and his name is Mezcal.

The spirit -- derived from the agave plant -- is becoming big business. Mexicans have been drinking it for centuries, but the world has only recently started to take notice.

Mijail Zarate, a fourth-generation Mezcal producer, calls the hard liquor made from the agave plant the "father of tequila."

"Mezcal is a distilled beverage with a historical origin," he said. "The Aztecs, our ancestors, drank an unfermented version of it."

The production of Mezcal has long since been industrialized, but producers like Zarate are pursuing innovation by looking to the past.

Just like it was done centuries ago, the agave plant is harvested by hand from the field. The plants are ground using a stone wheel pulled by a horse and fermented in large wooden barrels before being distilled using firewood in an adobe oven.

Oscar Olivera learned the process from his father, and swears by it.

"Because it's 100 percent more delicious and it doesn't make you sick," he said. "We don't add any chemicals. It's all based on the right temperature.

"Grinding the agave plant like this may not be the most efficient way possible. Using an industrial mill would be cheaper and probably even faster. But doing it this way, producers say, allows them to focus on quality and not the quantity."

The process also allowed producers to gain approval for their mezcal as an organic beverage in the U.S., Canada, the European Union and Japan, where it's becoming popular as the "new," exotic drink.

Producing Mezcal the old-fashioned way, Zarate says, doesn't interfere with modern quality standards. He says that by reducing methanol content, the toxicity level is reduced and therefore, the negative morning-after effects of drinking hard liquor are also reduced.

You know what they say: drink responsibly.

23 10 LINKEDIN 1 COMMENTMORE