The Scoop on Sotol: What This Mexican Liquor Is and Why You Need to Try It

Brimming with unique flavors and unique traditions, Mexico’s various regions are home to some very distinct liquors. Tequila and mezcal are two well-known Mexican spirits, but perhaps the most interesting of all is sotol, a distilled liquor that can best be described as earthy and smoky (but in the best way possible). Learn what sotol is, how it’s made, what it tastes like, and why you need to try it if you haven’t already.

What is sotol?

Sotol is both a plant and when distilled, a spirit. Though some may believe that is a relatively new creation, sotol actually dates back hundreds of years. The spicy spirit missed its chance at become a mainstay during Prohibition. Al Capone was trying to illegally bring it to the US and the Mexican government put a stop to that by halting production in Mexico where the gangster would get it.

What is a sotol plant?

Here is the Sotol Plant

Sotol is a native Mexican plant similar to but not the same as the agave plant that tequila is made from. Both sotol and agave belong to the Asparagales family of plants—sotol falls into the Dasylirion genus. It takes about 15 to 25 years to grow. The plant grows predominantly in Mexico, but also in Arizona and Texas.

How is the sotol spirit made?

The leaves are hacked away to reach the heart, which is taken to the distillery and cooked. The cooking process happens in ovens or via steam. The juice that comes forth is then fermented and distilled.

Where does a Sotol Plant grow? 

Sotol is produced from desert plants and is native to Mexico. But the plants are also found in Arizona and Texas. It grows under dry and rocky conditions.

What does sotol taste like?

What does Sotol taste like?

It sounds counter-intuitive to compare the tasting sotol to Tequila after trying to explain how they are different but the two spirits are somewhat similar in taste profile. There are notes of vanilla and orange zest but also a grassy taste too. It somehow seems lighter than tequila.

Sotol vs Tequila

Is Sotol the same as tequila? 

Sotol Bottles

Tequila and mezcal are two well-known Mexican spirits, but perhaps the most interesting of all is sotol.

The answer is ‘No”, sotol is not the same as tequila.

What is the difference between Tequila and Sotol?

Both of these spirits come from wild harvested plants but Sotol is made from plants known as Dasylirion whereas tequila is made from Blue Weber Agave plant. They both get distilled. One average Sotol plant can produce 6 liters of tequila whereas Dasylirion just produces 1 liter per plant.

Sotol comes from the agave plant, while tequila is made from the blue agave. To make tequila, a distiller first has to cut and remove the core of the blue agave plant. He then cuts it into pieces and boils them in water for 48 hours before adding yeast and fermenting the mixture for another two weeks or so.


How to host a tequila tasting

Spirits worth Sipping

At the feature of

Sotol is a distilled spirit made from the sotol plant and is typically used in Mexican drinks. It’s similar to tequila, but it has more of a smoky flavor and is less sweet.

How should I drink sotol?

While I am a firm believer in “you do you” we tasted the spirit neat. So not over ice or even. chilled. Just at room temperature. After sampling it by itself we tried it mixed into a cocktail. I like the cocktail better.

That’s the original varietal. But there’s also an oak age varietal. Here’s where sotol becomes more of a chameleon. Aged in oak barrels for a year, this varietal has nothing in common with tequila but tastes more like whiskey. I tasted the oak, vanilla and an overall smokey flavor.

Meet Desert Door Texas Sotol

Desert Door produces their own varietal of sotol with the plant they harvest in Texas. The company has an ethos of educating on conservation and disturbing the land as little as possible. Desert Door hosted us for a day in nature learning about the waters in North GA. We looked at the many species than can be found there. At the end of the day, we enjoyed a phenomenal meal prepared by chefs paired with sotol cocktail.

Desert Door Sotol Dinner

Watch the sotol video from Desert Door here

Sotol is an exciting spirit that is just now becoming known in the United States despite being around for many centuries. So, are you ready to give this smoky spirit a try?

About the author

Malika Bowling

Malika is the author of several books including Culinary Atlanta: Guide to the Best Restaurants, Markets, Breweries and More! and the founder of Roamilicious. She is also a Digital Marketing and Social Media Consultant. Follow us @Roamilicious on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest for the content not shared on the blog. And don't forget to subscribe to our newsletter (subscribe box below) and never miss a contest, giveaway or the latest must visit restaurant!