An excerpt from my, “A Gringo Guide to: Witchcraft – …to Pulque, Mescal and Tequila
Guide to Pulque, Mezcal, and Tequila
The Magical Maguey!
The name maguey is one the Spaniards brought with them from the Antilles. It described a similar plant found there, but remains in popular use today. Here the plant was known by other names: Metl, in Náhuatl; Tocamba, in Purépecha; and Guada, in Otomí, and in modern times the agave. There are 17 species of agave in México.
The maguey gives a unique character to the Mexican landscape, and it’s more than just a magnificent cactus, it’s a national symbol.
Pulque is produced by a natural fermentation process with an alcoholic content no higher than a mild beer.
Mezcal is hard liquor made by baking the maguey’s leaves and inducing fermentation followed by distillation.
Tequila is a a name used to describe a variation of mezcal made in or near Tequila, Jalisco (much like the Bordeaux produced in the region of the same name in France). Or more correctly, mezcal de tequila.
All three are native Mexican beverages made from plants belonging to the genus, Agave which accounts for the confusion of us gringos over the differences between them. Only one species of maguey will produce true tequila, several species can be used to produce mezcal, but three or more are used to make pulque in different areas of the country.