[:it]With Cristian Bugiada discovering the Agave[:]



Agave-based spirits are part of an entirely Mexican history. Their world might seem simple and made up of only two products: tequila and mezcal. However, this is not the case: agave has so much more to tell us.

To discover all its secrets we spoke with Cristian Bugiada, who with Roberto Artusio is the founder of La Punta Expendio De Agave, a Roman restaurant which is the heart of a much larger project entirely dedicated to the world of agave, made up of culture, discovery and product knowledge. Cristian and Roberto have traveled far and wide in Mexico, acquiring such a profound knowledge of agave-based spirits that they became official ambassadors of the CRM (Conseco regulator de Mezcal): there are only 6 ambassadors in the whole world. We asked Cristian to introduce us to the universe of agave, here's what he told us.


Cristian, let's talk about agave.

First of all it must be said that agave is not just tequila and mezcal. There are other minor spirits that are part of the Mexican cultural fabric and that Roberto and I learned about during our travels in Mexico.


Let's start with the two most well-known spirits, tequila and mezcal. What are the differences?

They are a lot. To begin with the production areas: tequila is produced in 5 states of Mexico, mezcal in 9. Since the production area of mezcal is much larger than that of tequila, it goes without saying that mezcal has many more varieties, also because while tequila must be produced only with agave azul, mezcal can be prepared with different types of agave. Furthermore, it is permitted to add sugar to tequila: the specification requires that it contain at least the 51% of agave azul. The mezcal on the other hand must be 100% agave. Then, there are excellent tequilas that contain agave azul at 100%.


Tell us the history of these spirits.

At the denomination level, it is a recent history, which began in the 1990s. The tequila consortium, CRT, has existed since 1994. The mezcal consortium was born in 2013. Tequila was the first to have an identity and legislation. If, however, we look at the history of agave distillates in general, we have to go back at least 500 years. There are those who say that distillation was brought to Mexico by the conquistadors, while others are convinced that it was distilled even before. The doubt remains, but the certainty is that a fermented agave-based product was already drunk in Mayan times.


What was it about?

It was pulque, a drink obtained by extracting the sap from the plant still attached to the ground. The sap was taken for sustenance, because it is a juice very rich in nutrients. Furthermore, by taking it from the plant attached to the ground, it reforms every day: consider that some plants can give up to 10 liters of sap per day. The fermentation of this juice then occurred by chance: being sugary, it fermented on its own. At that time there were the Aztecs who - once they discovered intoxication, a concept they had not previously known - made pulque a deified drink, which was used in rituals linked to the goddess Mayahuel.


Earlier you were talking about minor local spirits. Can you tell us something more?

Certainly: among these there are raicilla and bacanora, two spirits that can currently also be found on the Italian market, thanks to some small producers. Raicilla is produced in the state of Jalisco, using agaves not required for the production of tequila and therefore not exploited. Only recently has it obtained the designation of origin. Chef Esteban Morales, who founded La Venenosa, a label that is also found in Italy, certainly plays an important role in the current valorization of raicilla. His fight for the valorization and production of raicilla involved 70 families in the Jalisco area. Bacanora, on the other hand, has a bizarre history: it harks back to a century-old tradition, but between 1915 and 1992 production was blocked by a sort of prohibition justified by the rumor that it was bad for your health. Since 2000 this distillate has also had its denomination of origin.


Can you clarify the Mezcal worm issue for us once and for all?

The worm appeared in mezcal bottles in the United States in the 1940s. The reason? There was a lot of tequila around but mezcal was not known, so some companies of the time thought of launching the worm trend to differentiate the two spirits. The rumor that eating the worm caused hallucinations is obviously false! Today the worm is no longer used and the message of mezcal in our times is different: it is to let people know that it is a distillate that has a history behind it.


Can you leave us the recipe for a cocktail you love?

Yes, I'll leave you the Paloma La Punta, a variation of the traditional Paloma.

Here she is:

Paloma La Punta

Tequila 50ml

Lime 10 ml

Grapefruit 20 ml

Agave syrup 5 ml

Grapefruit soda top

Maldon salt crust


Try preparing it at home, have fun![:]


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