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A meeting of minds

The bar at Casa Mezcal, the Los Amantes project in Manhattan.

The bar at Casa Mezcal, the Los Amantes project in Manhattan.

It’s already been more than a month which tells you that I’ve been busy. But on a balmy evening in June we finally had the meeting of mezcal blogger minds. Yes, the Mezcal PhD sat down with Mezcalistas for a few glasses of mezcal at New York’s Casa Mezcal and resolved to solve the problems of the universe. Along the way they found much common ground, met their bar mates, and forged a lasting bond.

First we need to back up a bit and set the scene. I’d never been to Casa Mezcal before but did a double take upon entering because the decoration is a dark mirror of Oaxaca’s Los Amantes tasting room. A few seconds later I remembered that Casa Mezcal is run by the folks behind Los Amantes and the shock unraveled into homage because, as the photo above amply illustrates, the bar comes with a stuffed turkey and massive glass bottles almost perfectly channeling the original Oaxaca location.

John McEvoy is the blogger know as Mezcal PhD. As I mentioned we’ve corresponded via email, Susan and him even spoke by phone, but he and I had never really connected. A fortuitous trip to New York in June gave me just the opening I was looking for so we met up on the Lower East Side and really hit it off. He brought a copy of his, then, brand new book, Holy Soke! It’s Mezcal! so that I could finally see what he’d been slaving over for months. We chatted about the book and sundry other subjects, exchanged tasting notes, and shared a few glasses.

As we ordered I was struck by the similarity in the mezcal list. Just a few years ago there was quite a difference between what you could find in California and New York. Today it’s virtually the same list. It seems like brands are quickly finding their way across the continent. And by across I literally mean side to side because unfortunately I haven’t been able to visit most of the mid-section of the continent for a few years.

As with most mezcal fueled conversations our partners at the bar joined in and we had the pleasure of meeting Aditit Malhotra who runs Tache Chocolate around the corner. She rushed out to her shop to bring us some samples of her tequila inflected chocolates and introduced us to her friend who is appearing in a new reality cooking show. It’s moments like this that tempt one to conjour a higher power aka mezcal world phenomenon. Could it be people who like mezcal are inherently more interesting? Perhaps there’s a smaller group of them so that the sampling bias is more intense? Perhaps something else.

Whatever the case we sampled tequila chocolate while talking reality cooking. During stray moments of silence I jumped into John’s book and came up with a variety of questions. I finally finished it last month and just need to write up my thoughts so stay tuned. While sitting at the bar conversation strayed from mezcal to the quirks of the publishing world which may just be the definition of quirk. But that’s another topic for another blog. Back to the mezcal.

As I mentioned above we couldn’t really find any mezcals that aren’t already available in California so the novelty index was pretty low.  That’s not to say that quality suffered, we tasted Los Amantes’ flagship espadin, the Leyendas line, and a few other things to compare tasting notes and remind ourselves of certain idiosyncratic elements of each bottling. One of the fun things about these sorts of tastings is that no matter how distinct the personal taste, everyone can acknowledge what everyone else is tasting. You say dusty, I say, yup, I taste that as well. Whether I or you like that is a completely different question. At least we agree that it exists.

John and I talked about our mutual interests (mezcal, fly fishing, food) and really dug into the book and world of mezcal. He has some fascinating data in the appendices for COMERCAM’s selective reporting on volume of export per brand  which gives you a sense for just how small most of the industry really is. Suffice to say that we’ll definitely be organizing future meetings of this sort.

The only good news about waiting so long to write this post is that John will be in town for our Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle extravaganza on September 14th. We’ll put him on stage to chat about his interests and make sure that he circulates so watch out for a professorial presence. That will be him. In the interim definitely order a copy of his book so that you can be well informed about the mezcal universe.

 

 

 

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