Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Cocktails’ Category

You wanted mezcal – We’re bringing you mezcal


As anyone who attended last year’s Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle knows this event is not to be missed. It’s an opportunity to taste an incredible variety of mezcals and meet their makers while also sampling snacks from some of the best local restaurants and mezcal cocktails from all those creative bartenders who are getting written up in flashy magazines.

But this year we just had to go and make it bigger, badder, and better. First, why mess with success, the Grand Tasting is on November 15th at Public Works and will be very similar to last year’s event except that we’ll be adding mezcals and we’re going to have some very special tastings led by some of the most interesting people in the business. But keep in mind, only Mezcal Lovers tickets get access to those special tastings so choose wisely.

The preceding week will see a variety of special mezcal themed events throughout the San Francisco Bay Area including a US Bartender Guild juried competition for the best mezcal cocktail at Devil’s Acre on November 9th, special cocktail parties, dinners, a meeting with key figures in the industry, and more. As we say, check the schedule and get your tickets today.

But why stop there? November 8 – 15 is now officially Mezcal Week with special mezcal cocktails, flights, and snacks available at finer dining establishments and bars across the region. All participants are donating a portion of their proceeds to this year’s non-profit partner, the Mexican Museum. This is your opportunity to taste just how incredible and varied this transformative spirit is. If you can’t find something great on our list of participating venues then you don’t have a pulse.

So, join us and get your tickets today. Last year we sold out, don’t be left out in the cold!

Launching mezcal sustainably

Amarás cupreata

Last night Susan and I were fortunate enough to attend the formal launch tasting for Amarás’ cupreata at the rapidly assembling Cala, Gabriela Cámara’s much anticipated stateside restaurant. The focus of the evening’s conversation and speeches was clearly sustainability. Gabriela addressed the topic directly as she spoke of her her history at Mexico City’s well lauded Contramar which she launched 17 years ago as a seafood restaurant in a city hours from the nearest coast and more than a mile above sea level. As she explained last night, Mexico’s rather unique economic and political centralization means that pretty much all seafood flows through the capital before it’s shipped anywhere else which meant that she got the pick of Mexico’s freshest seafood.

The Cala margarita

The Cala margarita

Contramar is now a well established step on the international restaurant circuit and justifiably so. It’s tuna tostadas are reproduced by restaurants across the globe, it has a sister restaurant across town, and Mexican seafood is definitely of the moment. Cala is perched ready to ride that wave with a focus on seafood from Northern California but it was funny to hear Gabriela lament the limitations it poses. She wants her kitchen just to use local produce but keeps running up against how different it is from the ingredients in classic Mexican dishes. That’s the sense of place you get wherever you’re eating, fish in Veracruz, lobster in Maine, crab in San Francisco. Once you carry a national cuisine away from its native produce you get something different, if you embrace it you get a new hybrid like San Francisco’s Italian adapted to California = Zuni. Ditto for Berkeley’s California+France+Italy=Chez Panisse. From the tastes of octopus salad, halibut crudo, and a wild mezcal touched granita it’s clear that Cala is adapting nicely and will refresh the Northern Californian approach to seafood. While Mexican food is taking over the country this level of cultural and ingredient oriented adaptation is exactly what we need to inspire local home chefs as well as global restaurants.

The Cala halibut aguachiles and their unique martini.

The Cala halibut aguachiles and their unique martini.

But Cala’s opening is two, perhaps a few weeks away so we’ll all have time to truly appreciate it’s interpretation of Mexican in San Francisco. Last night was also dedicated to Amaras’ second bottle, a cupreata from Guerrero. Cala’s bar served up a trio of interpretations of classic cocktails which auger well for its future. Riffing off that whole conversation of cultural adaptation the margarita featured Amaras’ espadin along with citrus cane syrup, lime, and orange bitters for a refreshing version of the cocktail classic. From there it only got stranger because the martini zig-zagged across cultural boundaries combining Amaras espadin, Mandarin Napoleon, lime and fennel to arrive at a construction that is wholly of San Francisco’s current cocktail culture and no where else. Suffice to say that Cala’s idea of a Manhatten was equally adventurous. These cocktails will be part of Cala’s final cocktail menu and will be supplemented by many others inspired by the bounty of Northern California’s fruits and vegetables. We can’t wait to see what else they will present.

But wait: Weren’t we at Cala to taste mezcal? We tried it in cocktails but the best way to drink it is straight up which we certainly did in Amaras’ custom glazed copitas. I already have tasting notes for Amaras’ espadin which is widely available. The cupreata was released in time for this year’s Tales of the Cocktail and has been rolling out slowly across the country so you should be able to find it soon.

Amarás Cupreata


Maestro mezcalero: Don Faustino Robledo

Denominacion de Origen: Mazatlán, Guerrero

Agave: 13-year-old cupreata grown between 4,000-6,000 feet above sea level.

ABV: 43%

Guerrero Sierra Madre del Sur

Fields of cupreata in Guerrero’s Sierra Madre del Sur.

Like most cupreatas, Amarás’ interpretation is wide and fruity in the mouth. Unlike many it’s not overly viscous so it doesn’t coat your mouth. The flavor starts with big agave fruit and then thins out to an interesting vegetal mix of fresh bell peppers. As one taster noted that means that you could drink it all night long. I’m not sure about that level of hyperbole but it’s definitely elegant enough to sip over a long evening, especially if paired with food, preferably a dish with a bit of acid or spice like the halibut crudo that was served last night.

The funny thing is that the Amarás cupreata origin story has everything to do with food. While the company founders were out searching for a good cupreata in Guerrero they stopped at a roadside barbacoa, tasted the mezcal with the meat, thought ‘this is good,’ and kept going. It was only after tasting other mezcals and returning for more of the barbacoa that they realized it was clearly their favorite of the bunch. That food driven identity is something I’d love to see more of in the mezcal world. There’s nothing like BBQ and mezcal, sushi and mezcal, you name it – there’s a mezcal tailored to a dish.

So, why did we sandwich tasting notes in the middle of an article about sustainability? Well, among other things Gabriela also noted that Amarás is devoted to sustainability which is important in its own right and for the mezcal world as a whole because – all together now – mezcal comes from agave and if we don’t ensure that agave is sustainably cultivated there won’t be any for future weddings, funerals, and casual week night tippling.

I know that sustainability is a buzz word and one that’s deployed as a marketing term of art exactly because we’re all so hypocritical in our consumption of bottles of mezcal shipped thousands of miles but the bet is that we can improve this situation environmentally and economically. Call it transformative capitalism or coin your own term. Amarás is doing its part to pull all these disparate strands together. As Anchor’s brand representative, the wonderful Georgiana Green, noted the brand was founded by a social worker and focuses on giving back by making their product and process as sustainable as possible. Just like Gabriela’s limitations, Amarás has to work within constraints: They focus on environmental initiatives that reforest ten agaves for every one that is harvested for their mezcal and paying premiums to their mezcaleros while also contributing to their local communities. All that doesn’t make the mezcal taste better, that’s a given baseline, but the focus on sustainability as an integral part of a product is a good and important thing.

Amarás copitas

Amarás copitas

Quick look: Calavera Restaurant and Agave Bar

I had the lucky opportunity to check out Calavera Restaurant in Oakland ahead of its official open. This is Chris Pastena’s latest creation after Chop Bar, Tribune Tavern and Lungomare. I’d heard about Calavera a while back and was especially excited by their plans to stock more than 80 mezcals. I mean, how could I not be excited?

Located on Broadway, in a restored Julia Morgan building, it is a large, open restaurant with simple yet beautiful design that shines through with the hanging lights (not Edison lights!). The orangish back wall has very lightly and subtly embossed skulls, and a gorgeous long bar with a wall of mezcal that resembles a library because of the wheeled ladder used to access all the protruding boxes which contain all that precious mezcal.

And what a collection of mezcals – this place is serious. Pastena knows his stuff and has put together quite a list with specific selections from Mezonte, In Situ, and 400 Rabbits, plus the full collections from Vago, Del Maguey, Pierde Almas, Alipus, Mezcalero and more. Mezcal is served in ceramic copitas crafted by Oaxacan artist Omar Hernandez. It is this attention to detail that really shows the loving care put into creating this restaurant. There’s also a great list of cocktails – I tried the Sandia, a watermelon base with mezcal, salt air (foam), a sprinkling of chile de arbol and a watermelon garnish. Perfect for the heat of the evening.

The Sandia cocktail at Calavera

The Sandia cocktail at Calavera

Then there is the food… Chef Christian Irabien, whose background includes Oyamel Cocina Mexicana (Jose Andrés’ restaurant in DC) has crafted a unique menu that salutes tradition and simultaneously turns it around. We were a four top of serious and adventurous eaters and therefore were not shy at ordering as much as we could. Everything was delicious, from the ceviches to the refried beans to the chile relleno and to the grilled huachinango (oh how I love huachinango and so rarely eat it outside of Mexico.)

Calavera is the latest addition to Oakland’s collection of upscale Mexican restaurants which makes it quite a place to eat out. Between this latest addition, Tamarindo, Nido, and Doña Tomas it’s far easier for those of us on the east side of the bay to stay local while indulging our love for all things Mexican. I am greatly looking forward to spending some time at the bar, sipping my way through that list.

What was left of dessert

What was left of dessert

Copita of In Situ arroqueño

Copita of In Situ arroqueño

Grilled huachinango

Grilled huachinango

Guacamole with a side of chapulines

Guacamole with a side of chapulines





Oaxaqueño correcto

Italian’s have caffe corretto which is an espresso with a dash of grappa. Lately the fall chill has inspired the creation of a Mexican variant with mezcal instead of grappa. Obviously I can’t recommend it for all occasions but boy does it end a meal in style, especially some of the big holiday meals which loom over the next month-and-a-half. Should you prefer cacao to caffe make some Mexican hot chocolate and correct away…

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!

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.