agave spirit, raicilla, poured into a shot glass
What Is Raicilla, The Lesser-Known Agave Spirit?
Raicilla is not a well-known agave spirit because it wasn’t commercially sold in Mexico until 2008, and wasn't available in the United States until 2014.
Mexico's famous agave spirit, mezcal, helped raise raicilla’s popularity. Mezcal producer Arik Torren lobbied the U.S. government on behalf of the raicilla brand La Venenosa.
Raicilla, or "little root," is a spirit produced in Jalisco, Mexico. Its name originates from a tactic used by bootleggers to evade taxes on mezcal during Spanish colonization.
By falsely claiming it was made from agave roots instead of the heart, raicilla makers avoided taxation, leading to its overlooked status as Mexican moonshine.
The lack of formal oversight allowed for diverse styles and flavors to develop. Commercial raicilla gained recognition in 2008 with the introduction of the brand Le Venenosa.
Similar to mezcal and tequila, raicilla is crafted from the agave plant's heart. The heart is roasted, mashed, and fermented before being distilled using copper pots.
Raicilla, similar to mezcal, is distilled either once or twice and is categorized into de la costa (from the coast) and de la sierra (from the mountains).
Both types are made with different agave species and exhibit distinct characteristics. The coastal raicilla is typically drier, while mountain raicilla tends to be sweeter.
Raicilla can be enjoyed straight, preferably cold and/or on the rocks. This spirit also makes a dynamic cocktail ingredient.