Mezcal is the New Punch
The Count of San Francisco

Mezcal vs. Mescal

Does anyone have a strong opinion or preference as to how this should be spelled? My browser spell check and Microsoft Word seem to think mescal is correct and mezcal is incorrect.

I see it either way in the news, and did a search:

mescal in SF Chronicle returns 41 results
mezcal in SF Chronicle returns 34 results

mescal in New York Times returns 616 results
mezcal in New York Times returns 10,000+ results

mescal in LA Times returns 84 results
mezcal in LA Times returns 48 results

mescal in Google search returns 508,000 results
mezcal in Google search returns 1,260,000 results

I prefer mescal, just because I like the way the word looks and it's easier for my to type. You?

**Update 2012: It appears "mezcal" has now become the standard. **


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Mr Manhattan

Did you see any correlation between spelling and date of usage? Was 'mescal' more commonly used in the past with 'mezcal' now becoming the preferred spelling, along with the rize (sic) of this liquor's popularity?

I also note that Del Maguey spells it with the 'z' (see That's good enough for me.



i agree with Michael. i also see it on my bottle of Jonny Raglin's organic Benesin (the best value brand imho) as being spelled 'mezcal'. i prefer this spelling personally... partly because it helps to differentiate it from the word 'mescaline' - which we all know is a whole different animal.

i have a feeling that both are ultimately acceptable as indicated by your searches, Camper. think of the word donut and doughnut - both are okay to use currently. will one spelling survive the test of time and the other fade away? who knows. when was the last time you saw this: 'cocoanut' or 'curacoa'?


The Mexican industry organization/appellation group (based in Oaxaca) weighs in as "Patronato Nacional de la Industria del Mezcal." And besides, I like to show that Microsoft is wrong whenever possible.


(Of course, after I posted that, I noticed that their English language pages change the spelling to "mescal." Further evidence that either is correct. I think I need sit down with some whisky/whiskey and a copy of the Chicago Manual of Style to clear my head.)


Prefer Mezcal, as it makes it less easy to conflate with Mescaline.

Tony D

Thinking back to my trip in Jalisco and Zacatecas last year, I don't recal ever seeing it spelled with an 's'. Also, in spanish a 'z' is often pronounced with and s sound; this would make sense for us Americans giving it the wrong spelling to make it sound right when we say it.

Mike S.

I prefer mezcal as well, for the very reason Michael mentions in the first comment. The folks at Del Maguey certainly know a thing or two about this stuff, and I'm happy to defer to their spelling.


To me it has always been mezcal and that´s the way i like it.



The best stuff out there is Del Maguey, whose website is:

Proprietor Ron Cooper would, I wager, vote for Mezcal.

Ron Cooper

Camper, Joe, Tiare, Mike, Tony, Erik, Casey, Alex and Mr Manhattan,

Thanks for bringing this subject up (Finally) and weighing in on it. It has been a thorn in my side for 20 years. I even wrote to the editors of Webster's Dictionary to get it straightened out a few years ago.

Following should be the DEFINITIVE; it is the Mexican Regulatory Council For The Quality Of Mezcal, A.C.: El Consejo Mexicano Regulador de la Calidad del Mezcal A.C. (COMERCAM) se constituye 12 diciembre de 1997, como un organismo del sector privado con fines no lucrativos, tiene personalidad jurídica propia y es de alcance nacional.

El COMERCAM vigila el cumplimiento de la NORMA Oficial Mexicana NOM-070-SCFI-1994, Bebidas alcoholicas-Mezcal-Especificaciones, para tal efecto se ha obtenido la acreditación del Organismo de Certificación: Reg. No. 33/03 y Unidad de Verificación No. UVNOM 030 por parte de la Entidad Mexicana de Acreditación A.C.

Plus it you look at the NORMA the title is: NORMA Oficial Mexicana NOM-070-SCFI-1994, Bebidas alcohólicas-Mezcal-Especificaciones.

I am entering the URL for COMERCAM and you all can look up any OFFICIAL info desired (although it is in Spanish)

Thanks again and Best regards - Stigibeu!

Ron Cooper

Ron Cooper

Camper English

Hi Ron- Though I've no doubt that mezcal is the proper Spanish spelling, we do translate words into English like "vino" into "wine", so is "mescal" the English translation of "mezcal"?

I guess the fact that it's not clear or consistent in English publications tells us we should most likely use the Spanish word mezcal. But as I writer I will use the style of the publication for which I'm writing- if it's consistent.

But now I have to figure out how to change my spell check...

Camper English

Ron adds:

"Wikipedia has listing for mezcal. Google search (when I started in 1995 returned 250 links) now has 1,440,00. Google search for mescal returns 903,000. Quantity wise mezcal spelling is ahead by 59%."

Wyatt Peabody

I wish that my dear friend and guru, Mr. Cooper, had been more direct. There is only one spelling for mezcal. And, it’s with a “Z.”

If you haven’t yet delved into “Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol” By Iain Gately, you definitely should. He has some brilliant and well established material. On page 281, he reveals Sir Richard Burton’s 1860 journey to California and Mexico. And, he tells us that Burton took “philosophical consolation in various experiments touching the influence of Mezcal brandy, the Mexican National drink, upon the human mind and body.” In the following sentence, however, he chooses to employ the alternate spelling: “The tumult of Mexico, exaggerated by mescal, sweetened Burton’s perception of America, and in particular the last portion of its soil that he had touched.”

This is something that I have battled at various publications—to your point Camper—though, most recently, the Los Angeles Times Magazine was happy to defend its proper spelling.

Thank you for writing about this, sir.


Experience Tequila

"Mezcal" is the Mexican spelling - 'nuff said. Unless anyone is going to suggest we switch to "tekeela."

Tricia Carr (Tricia Alley)

Hey Camper! Thanks for this!

It's kind of like Shakespeare's name, isn't it? Although I landed on my preferred Shakespeare spelling when I first began studying the Bard in 8th grade. Back then I had taste for Tequila Reposado but had not yet experienced Mezcal. ;)

If I'm referring to a specific brand I double check the spelling on the bottle. In my experience, it is always "Mezcal". I have preferred that spelling because it seemed more authentic to me. I didn't know for sure that it is more authentic, which is why I Googled this up just now.


Camper English

In the 4 years since I wrote this post it seems the issue has been settled and 'mezcal' is the winner. I rarely see mescal now and it looks weird when I do!




In Spanish, the sound of 'mezcal" is like "mess-cal," much like we would say "mescal". So, in Mexico go with mezcal, in El Norte, use mescal. But same sound.


It is Mezcal. Mescal is short for mescaline which is a hallucinogen derived from the Peyote Cactus (lophophora williamsii).

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