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What’s up in the world of mezcal?

You already know that we’ll be tasting an incredible variety of mezcals later today at our Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle event and that you’ll be able to taste bites from some of the best Mexican restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area. But did you know that we’ll also be hosting a series of talks and tastings to dive as deep as possible into the world of mezcal?

We will be hosting a series of panel discussions on topics of importance and interest including:

  • Culture and History of Mezcal: We’ll delve into the questions of mezcal’s origin and how it is intertwined with Mexican culture. We’ll also take a look at how globalization is changing that culture. Raza Zaidi of Wahaka mezcal and Esteban Morales of Raicilla Venenosa and many restaurant projects in Guadalajara will converse on these and related topics.
  • Is Mezcal Sustainable: Our panelists Arik Torren from Fidencio, Clayton Szczech from Experience Mezcal and Tequila, and Erick Rodriguez of Alma Mezcalera delve into the big questions about environmental, legal, and cultural sustainability in the mezcal industry.
  • Women and Mezcal: Susan Coss of talks to Graciela Parreño of Real Minero about the changing role of women in the industry. Initially consigned to the background they are now emerging as business leaders and even mezcaleros. 

Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle also gives you a unique contrast of tasting opportunities. Mezcal brands will be pouring their bottles throughout the event so that you can taste an incredible variety of mezcals while talking to their creators. We will also offer a series of specialized tastings that will delve into the following areas:

  • Anatomy of Mezcal: Ivan Saldana, the man behind Montelobos Mezcal, leads the tasting group through his nuanced perspective on what you’re tasting in a mezcal and then compares his notes with other mezcal creators and the audience.
  • Specialities from Oaxaca and Beyond: We pour tastes from some high contrast mezcals in order to highlight the variety of small producers in Mexico. Led by Mezcal PhD blogger John McEvoy who recently published a great book on mezcal.
  • Michoacan Rising: We highlight a few of the coming wave of mezcals from Michoacan which highlight different agaves, traditions and flavors. Michoacan was officially certified as a mezcal producing state in 2012, it’s just now that the state’s mezcals are gaining full certification and will be appearing on the American market.

So, don’t delay head on over to Public Works and buy your tickets at the door. You don’t want to miss this line up!

Smoked dove cocktail? Yup, that’s your Paloma!

Watch as Tamarindo’s Michelle makes their Smoky Paloma in a nicely proportioned ceramic cup with a chile salt rim. You can beat the heat with these so arrive at Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle Sunday fresh from the park. Tamarindo will cool you down with a Smoky Paloma and feed you a refreshing snack so that you’re ready for the rest of the mezcal tasting. Just make sure to buy your tickets today!

Loló takes you to a Oaxacan Old Fashioned

Today’s bit of cocktail wisdom courstesy of Loló’s David Gallardo who teaches you how to make a Oaxacan Old Fashioned. You can watch him whip them up at Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle this Sunday, September 14th and chat about other bar intelligence while snacking on some of Loló’s great treats. Just make sure to get your tickets today!

El Techo’s Sonora Cooler = antidote to a hot weekend

Watch Nora the bar manager at El Techo de Lolinda prepare a ruby tinged and cucumber garnished Sonora Cooler with mezcal. It’s the perfect way to get the weekend started. Then you can revisit it Sunday evening at Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle when Nora will get your week started correctly with the same cocktail while El Techo and Lolinda, among many others, will give you a sample of the fine Mexican cuisine in the San Francisco Bay Area. Buy your tickets today!

Exclusive mezcals, this Sunday

We promised some exclusive items for our Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle tasting this Sunday, September 14th. Now we can tell you about a few of them.

We’re proud to announce that Raicilla Venenosa will premiere at our event. It’s the first legal raicilla in the United States brought to you by Esteban Morales known for his Guadalajara restaurants and obsession with agave distillates. I’m going to write more at length about this project later because, while Esteban is a crack restaurateur, he will probably be remembered for projects like Venenosa. It’s really that special.

Earlier this summer we were pleased to republish a Mexico Cooks article about Uasïsï Mezcal because we always love the Mexican treasures that Cristina finds. Now we’re happy to announce that we’ll be pouring this totally artisanal mezcal made from 100% wild cupreata in a special tasting highlighting mezcals from Michoacan which is quite an exciting development.

Alberto “Beto” Morales is no slouch. He runs Wahaka’s palenque and an equal parter in the business so he’s quite busy. But that didn’t prevent him from producing something new that will be previewed at Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle this Sunday. Wahaka’s Raza Zaidi will be pouring two limited edition mezcales, the Espadín Manzanita and Espadín Botaniko, which should be released later this year. Take it from us, you don’t want to miss them, here’s a quick snap shot of the new labels.

Two limited edition mezcales new from Wahaka the fall of 2014. The Espadín Manzanita and Espadín Botaniko.

Two limited edition mezcales new from Wahaka the fall of 2014. The Espadín Manzanita and Espadín Botaniko.


Oh, and there will be more so definitely get your tickets today!

La Urbana redefines the sazerac, moves Nola south of the border

Watch La Urbana bartender Trent Simpson whip up a Mezcal Sazerac featuring Wahaka Espadin and Wahaka Reposado con Gusano and then buy your tickets to sample Trent’s cocktail, bites from La Urbana, and much much more at the Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle event this Sunday, September 14th. We’ll see you there!

Colibri presents the Bird’s Nest cocktail

In the second of our video collaborations with Tastemade to highlight the restaurants and bartenders attending our Mezcal:Mexico in a Bottle event we present Colibri’s Bird’s Nest cocktail. The Bird’s Nest is unusual for a few reasons, it features two mezcals, a bitter made in Mexico, oh and it has four ingredients. Quite complex.

As a reminder Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle is this coming Sunday, September 14th. You can sample mezcal along side the universe of food, drinks, culture, and ideas that it inspires. Watch the video, learn how to make a Bird’s Nest then buy your tickets! See you Sunday.

Beretta’s Puncher’s Chance!

Learn how to make Beretta’s bartender Dominic Alling makes Puncher’s Chance cocktail in the first of our video collaborations with Tastemade to highlight the restaurants and bartenders attending our Mezcal:Mexico in a Bottle event. It’s this coming Sunday, September 14th when you can sample mezcal along side the universe of food, drinks, culture, and ideas that it inspires.

Some may ask why a non-Mexican restaurant is appearing at a mezcal tasting but this was an obvious invitation because Beretta was one of the first restaurants to create a mezcal cocktail program and really emphasize it.

Watch the video, and then buy your tickets! See you Sunday.

The battle for authenticity is joined by the big boys


Roca Patron

Last month Patron launched a new tequila brand in the United States that is notable for what it borrows from mezcal and some of  tequila brands who never gave up on the traditional manufacturing methods. Roca Patron is marketed entirely on the basis of being milled with a tahona. That’s the only thing you see called out in the magazine advertisements, their web site, anywhere they market it. It’s all about the rock. Aside from admirable discipline in marketing, they are literally running a text book case of single message marketing that should be live tweeted from marketing classes the world round, this represents something of a shift in the greater tequila and mezcal business.

The call to authenticity in distilling has always been a part of the Mexican story. That picture of the maestro mezcalero out there in the middle of nowhere hand harvesting piñas, roasting them underground in a pit, milling them with a donkey’s help, wild fermenting them in open vats, and then distilling them over an open fire, is a huge part of the romance of mezcal. It’s also been a huge part of the romance of tequila. Some brands like Fortaleza have always emphasized their use of the tahona while others reference the romance of the hacienda and other nostalgic Mexican stereotypes. And, lest anyone think this is just an American phenomenon, it’s a huge deal for Mexicans as well because it’s a big part of the local culture and how Mexicans like to see themselves. Sort of like the American obsession with freedom.

But this tahona marketing push is something new for the tequila business. The big brands like Patron have always been happy to craft their marketing campaigns so that they trigger associations with agrarian Mexican traditions like the hacienda house, rolling hills covered by blue agaves, the worn hands of the jimadore as he hacks into an agave. But they’ve never built a whole brand around a single component in that process and, to my knowledge, never built a product around it either. Smaller brands never abandoned the traditional processes, the aforementioned Fortaleza has been a stalwart along with a few other producers while the major tequila brands moved to more mechanical extraction processes in order to speed production and guarantee consistency of their product. By emphasizing the tahona it seems like they’re trying to associate themselves with the artisanal movement while extracting a premium price. It’s a fascinating development that’s not without positive developments because if Patron has a tahona driven facility perhaps others will take notice and refocus on tequila’s artisanal roots.

The devil in the bottle

El Amor del Diablo mezcalOne day this July I heard about a mezcal tasting at Nopalito and scrambled to see if I could make it because it’s not every day that a new mezcal just drops from the sky. Unfortunately I couldn’t but I did manage to set up a meeting with Rachel Glueck who was presenting El Amor del Diablo mezcal. We met at the back of Blue Bottle on 18th St. surreptitiously slipping mezcals from Rachel’s bag for a full tasting.

Rachel has a fascinating story, she worked here in San Francisco for a while as a server at Nopa but had long been a global traveler and sometime travel writer. Our conversation made it clear that she is quite the footloose type: Her swing through SF was a stopover on her way home to Todos Santos, Mexico after having crewed on a yacht in the Caribbean.

As we talked it was clear that we had much in common besides an obsession with mezcal, especially good food and a keen appreciation for Mexican culture. Rachel told me that she really likes living outside the tourist zones in Baja because there’s such a nice combination of native Mexican culture and emerging epicurean cultures in the form of local goat herders who make their own goat cheese and organic farms. More than anything we spent time discussing the idea of culture as disruptor, the simple and long held idea that culture is the glue of our social lives while also the veritable sand in the vaseline of homogenous globalization. This idea is close to the mezcalista manifesto and why we named our upcoming monster of a mezcal tasting in San Francisco Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle.

But I digress, back to Rachel’s mezcal project. It started with a 2012 trip to Mexico for a work exchange when she met a man named Noel in her first two weeks in the country. They fell in love and were quickly engaged. As she has recounted in this blog post, Noel is a Mexican who uses mezcal as a ritualistic component of his native dancing. All the strands wound around mezcal which led to the idea of starting their own mezcal label and one day exporting it to the United States.

On a trip in 2013 through Oaxaca, the couple met up with an old friend of Rachel’s who had been working and studying with a family of mezcaleros for years in Chichicapam. The family was looking for a market to sell their mezcal and Noel really hit it off with the family. Since then Noel and Rachel have been collaborating with that family and neighboring mezcaleros to test the market. 

In July, Rachel was swinging through San Francisco to get an answer to that question. I’m happy to report that she and Noel have quite a nice line up of seven mezcals. Here’s what they’re presenting:

  • Espadin 48%
  • Cuixe 48%
  • Pata de Cuixe 48%
  • Madre de Cuixe 50%
  • Tepezate 48%
  • Tobala 48%
  • Papalotl 50%

As you’d expect they have wildly divergent flavors and scents. Here are my initial tasting notes which I look forward to repeating soon.

  • Espadin: Grassy with a round mid-palate feel and a citrus tail.
  • Cuixe: Minty nose, very rich mid-palate which slips into herbal notes notes at the tail.
  • Pata de Cuixe: Very distinct flavor notes of citrus and grass made this one stand out of the tasting.
  • Madre de Cuixe: A very thin and racy bottle, very distinct from any of the Madrecuxe’s that I’ve tasted on the American market.
  • Tepezate: A very fruity nose is echoed by a round mouth feel and warm fruity flavor.
  • Tobala: A very big and nuanced with very little viscosity. This is the one I had the most difficult time describing so I’m really looking forward to tasting it again.

This line up is a continuation of two trends we’ve been seeing lately, a full line of mezcals based on diverse agaves all sourced from a single palenque like Vago or El Jolgorio. Perhaps you could label this moment mezcal 3.0 following Ron Cooper’s introduction of single village mezcal to the United States with Del Maguey, the next wave of brands like Wahaka, Fidencio, and Illegal who pursued wildly divergent approaches, and now this trend.

It’s really interesting that neither Rachel nor Noel are creating these mezcals themselves. Noel just knew and liked this family’s mezcal from Chichicapam and they’ve tried to launch their brand so that the family can see the fruits of their labor and the world of mezcal aficionados can appreciate these fine creations. We continue to hear quite a few stories like these which is testament to the vibrancy of mezcal production in Mexico and the importance of sustaining that culture.

The one big difference in Rachel and Noel’s approach is that they’re trying to crowd fund the brand through Rocket Hub. They are on the keep-what-you-raise plan because they’re working away on the project no matter what happens. Their first step is all the research and due diligence they’ll need to launch the brand so they are jumping into a swing through central Mexico starting September 5th and will finish by spending most of October and early November in Oaxaca. Their campaign is definitely worth a look, but act fast because their deadline is September 4th at 1AM Eastern. And, should you be in Oaxaca this October/November reach out to Rachel and Noel via email or Twitter to see if you can set up a tasting!