It’s a new calendar year and things are changing for mezcal. As we all hold our breath this Friday we do know a few things, and all of them have some impact on the mezcal world.
It’s never been so cheap to create a mezcal brand
There are more mezcal brands on the market in the United States than ever before. With the growing interest in the cocktail space and even the retail world, the business case is there and brands are being built to fill niches in the market. We routinely talk to distillers, brand creators, and others who are interested in creating or bringing a mezcal brand into the United States.
In Mexico there are even more brands, so many that it’s been difficult to even imagine what’s going on in the mezcalosphere. That points to one fascinating contradiction in our moment: The production is there, the business interest is there, arguably the consumer interest is also there. But there are some big questions. Read more
You know that with mezcal’s surging popularity Oaxaca is seeing lots of tourists who want to taste and learn about mezcal so you’d expect the town to boast some of the world’s best mezcalerias. That’s true in resplendent variety. There’s Mezcaloteca’s very structured tasting environment. In Situ’s rough and ready bar. Txalaparta’s mezcaleria within a hookah bar. Amantes’ old time store front replete with resident guitarist. And then there are all the restaurants that feature great mezcal selections. We could go on, just check our Where to Drink Mezcal in Oaxaca for a great guide. Here’s our latest updated map. Read more
Don Lorenzo with his daughter Graciela Angeles
We are tremendously sad to hear the news that Don Lorenzo Angeles, the patriarch of the Angeles family which is responsible for Real Minero Mezcal, has died of lung cancer. Anyone who met him can vouch that he was a fantastic human being and a link to a different era of Mexico and mezcal. He raised an incredible family which now operates Real Minero, the quality of their mezcal and the ethics they bring to the operation speak clearly to his own high standards. But more than anything their humanity speaks volumes about who he was. Always welcoming to visitors, working in the fields with his workers until very recently, in Yiddish terms he was a true mensch.
As word has filtered out through the mezcal community here in the U.S., folks have taken to Facebook to express their sadness. Pretty much anyone in the bar industry who has traveled to Oaxaca crossed paths with Don Lorenzo over the years, if not in Santa Catarina Minas, then certainly at the El Pochote Mercado where he could be found sampling and selling his bottles, always, always with a huge smile on his face that you wanted to crawl into.
Our world is smaller without him.
We send our condolences and best wishes to his family.
We are pleased to introduce our new correspondent on the ground Buzz Komil – this is his first piece for Mezcalistas…
So, there’s this amazing new spirit out of Mexico called mezcal. It’s kind of like tequila, but not really. It’s smoky, and mysterious, like that cousin you once heard of, you know, the one who lived out in the middle of nowhere and whose idea of a pimped ride was a donkey pulling a stone wheel.
A tahona in Miahuatlan. Photo by Max Garrone
We get asked all the time about how to go visit palenques in Oaxaca. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on who you ask, the tourist infrastructure isn’t fully built out so tours and routes aren’t that obvious. There just isn’t a Silverado Trail there even if there are tons of distillers and plenty of roadside stands of somewhat dubious quality. But with the explosion of interest in mezcal over the past few years some great options have emerged. Here are a few of the most prominent.
This is a cross post from one of our frequent collaborators, Ferron Salniker. You can read her excellent blog Ferronlandia here.
I’m pretty sure I learned the magic of eating garlic shrimp, down to the shells and heads, when I was six on our first family trip to Mexico, in Puerto Angel, which happens to be just a few towns down from where I stayed this trip. I’ve come full circle, because when stuck on what to order last week I remembered how difficult it is to fuck up garlic shrimp (camarones al ajo). It’s just butter, garlic, shrimp. I had it two days in a row.
After eating and drinking in Oaxaca city for five days, coming to the coast was a welcome relief from eating meat and cheese at almost every meal. But like in many beach towns across Mexico I didn’t find a lot of variety. Up and down the Oaxacan coast you’ll find restaurants catering to the western ex-pats and traveling flowy-pant wearers with hodgepodge menus of wraps and fried things, and a lot of tiny establishments offering much of the same staples: grilled fish and other simple seafood dishes or tlayudas (like Oaxacan pizzas).