Bubbles determine the amount of alcohol in Mezcal

G. Rage, O. Atasi, M. M. Wilhelmus, J. F. Hernández-Sánchez, B. Haut, B. Scheid, D. Legendre, R. Zenit*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
50 Downloads (Pure)


Mezcal is a traditional Mexican spirit, obtained from the distillation of fermented agave juices. Its preparation has been conducted for centuries in an artisanal manner. The method used to determine the correct alcohol content is of particular interest: a stream of the liquor is poured into a small vessel to induce surface bubbles. These bubbles, known as pearls by the Mezcal artisans, remain stable for tenths of seconds only if the alcohol content is close to 50%. For higher or lower alcohol content, the bubbles burst rapidly. The long bubble lifetime is the result of surfactant-induced surface tension changes. However, the precise mechanism and its relation to alcohol content remain unexplained. In this investigation, the extended lifetime of pearls was studied both experimentally and numerically. It was found that changes in surface tension, density, viscosity (resulting from mixing ethanol and water), and the presence of surfactants are all relevant to extend the bubble lifetime. The dimensionless bubble lifetime was found to reach its maximum value when the Bond number was close to unity, corresponding to 2 mm Mezcal bubbles. These findings show that the traditional empirical method does work. Beyond this, the understanding of the process provides physical insight to many other natural and industrial problems for which the stability of surface bubbles is of importance, such as bio-foams, froth floatation, and volcanic flows.

Original languageEnglish
Article number11014
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020


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