NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Mexican cuisine is winning new respect in the U.S. The Michelin guide awarded Casa Enrique in Queens, New York, a star in October, a rare honor for an unpretentious restaurant in an unfashionable place; and heralded Mexico City chef Enrique Olvera opened Cosme in Manhattan's Flatiron district to rave reviews last fall.
That success builds in part on the growing number of excellent Tequilas and Mezcals that have appeared in recent years. Empellon Cocina, a Mexican restaurant in New York's East Village, offers a wide selection of both beverages. Below, Noah Small, the beverage director at Empellon, discusses some of his favorites.
Tequila is a form of Mezcal. The former gets its name from a city in the Mexican state of Jalisco. Tequila is made only from the Blue Weber agave, the hearts or piñas of which are roasted and then mashed to produce the juice from which Tequila is made. Mezcal may be made in seven states from any of about 30 species of agave, though in practice about 70% is made in Oaxaca and about 90% from the Espadín agave, whose piñas can weight between 100 and 120 pounds. Critically, the piñas for Mezcal are smoked, which gives the drink its distinctive flavor.