But enough with delays. A group of us was fortunate to taste through Vago’s line with brand co-founder Judah Kuper Thursday, March 24th. Special thanks to Joel from Worthy Bar for organizing the event. Special thanks as well to Kevin & Lauren Bohlin for hosting at St. Frank. For those who haven’t been, St. Frank is an absolutely beautiful cafe in San Francisco. It’s all blond wood and white tile but steps beyond most espresso bars in that it puts a huge emphasis on reducing the obstacles between barista and customer interaction. The espresso machines are under the counter, and everything else is kept out of the way so that it’s easy to see and interact without a big hunk of metal between you. They are also just about to expand with new cafes named Saint Claire in partnership with Not for Sale. Read more
It’s not often, if at all, we venture into Tequila world, but when this opportunity came up to collaborate on an agave event at the Clift Hotel, we jumped. With the NOM 199 proposal hanging over the agave industry’s head, we figured it was time to put craft with craft and celebrate all that is good about small production agave distillates.
Tickets are available here — $40 in advance, $50 at the door. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Tequila Interchange Project that has been so instrumental in educating the market about agave distillates, and leading the fight against NOM 199. Final comments are due April 29th, so please be sure to sign the petition!
What a time was had at our very first (and completely sold out!) Pop up Pulqueria, hosted by Old Bus Tavern in San Francisco’s Mission District. Little did we know the sky would open up and unleash a torrent of water, making it the perfect night to eat pozole, drink mezcal, and of course, wash it all down with some fresh pulque, tepache, and curados. Read more
Jonathan Barbieri, artist and owner of the mezcal brand Pierde Almas, knows how to tell a story, as evidenced by the audience at Oakland’s Calavera entranced by his words describing the days of selling mezcal when it was illegal contraband. Produced in palenques outside of small pueblos and then sold by women who were more likely to avoid being stopped by authorities, it is a romantic tale and sets a nostalgic mood. It lays the perfect foundation for the bigger story that night – his latest project is producing an “ancestral corn” whiskey from the very palenques that now fuel the burgeoning mezcal industry.Read more
Taste the great (great, great, great) grandfather of mezcal, pulque. The 1,000 (at least) year old sacred fermented drink made from the sap of the agave plant. It was on the verge of dying out but it is now surging in popularity among a new generation in Mexico City. Newly converted pulque lovers are drawn by its history and light, refreshing flavor.
Our local treasure and the only pulque producer we know of in the United States, Salvador will be on hand to guide you through pulque’s rich history and delicious flavors. To up the ante (and agave!), we’re also bringing in Wahaka Mezcal’s Raza Zaidi to show you what mezcal is all about.
The kick ass bartenders at Old Bus Tavern will create a bevy of smashing cocktails (featuring both pulque and mezcal), plus a special pozole.
Ryan Fitzgerald helped us kick off Mezcal Week in style with a mezcal brunch at his restaurant ABV that also celebrated his birthday. The special cocktail and brunch menu made lots of people happy enough to carry the party on through the afternoon. Read more
Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle and Mezcal Week are behind us now but the memories, connections, and tastes linger. Here’s a photo gallery of some of the highlights. It was quite a show, our advertised number of over 60 mezcals ended up being incredibly conservative with at least that many in the small producers room alone which featured mico-production mezcals from across Mexico.
I am often asked – where is the best place to try mezcal in the Bay Area? And my usual reply is, well, my house. Logistics make it hard to actually have everyone over – kid with homework and a bedtime, people probably having to drive to my house, etc etc. I say my house because over the years I have amassed a collection of some pretty awesome mezcals that are not available in the US, and most likely never will be. So short of going to Mexico yourself, or having an inside connection, this has been the stop gap solution.
This year we have solved that problem by creating small producers room at the Grand Tasting at Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle on November 15th. The idea is to bring out all those unique bottles that you’d only find on my bar and some things that I’ve never been able to find. This offering is part of the Mezcal Lover’s package, and in addition to fine mezcals, it will also be a chance to talk to a few of the people who make or find them.
In the line-up we have mezcals that I encountered on some recent mezcal adventures in Mexico. They have a way of finding you and I am so happy they are able to participate.
Aguas del Corazon was founded by Andrea Sánchez López, who I had the pleasure of meeting at my very first Vela Istmeña as part of the Guelaguetza celebration in Oaxaca. She was dressed in a gorgeous, traditional Istmeña dress, and poured us some of the mezcal, a full bodied arroqueño that blew my socks off. Aguas works with several small producers around the state of Oaxaca – small as in less than 40 bottles in some production runs. Andrea has a culinary background and has curated a delicious collection of tobala, espadin, sierra negra, coyote, and barril.
El Tigre Mezcal is a cooperative project from the state of Guerrero. They are producing mezcals from wild papalote and zcamexcal grown in the low mountains of Guerrero. These mezcals vary from 50-52% alcohol, and have a very different and earthy flavor.
Mezcal Neta is a project from Max Rosenstock, who has been traveling the Oaxacan roads for the past several years to find mezcals for his burgeoning brand. We’ll have mezcals from San Luis Amatlan, a region known for its madrecuishe, verde, and increasingly, espadin.
Mezcal Cuish has probably done than any other mezcal when it comes to capturing the attention of a younger generation and getting them to care about mezcal. Started by a couple of art students in Oaxaca who had family connections to mezcal, they created a mezcaleria and a huge following of other art students, inspiring Oaxacan pride around the spirit.
Alma Mezcalera doesn’t need much of an introduction. A project by Erick Rodriguez, a tireless and intrepid promoter of mezcal as we’ve written about before here and most recently here, Erick will have his very special mezcals that he has sourced from all over Mexico.
Mezcal Chaneque will also be on hand. I had a chance to taste this mezcal in June and loved its rounded flavors and depth. This is a mezcal that will soon be available in the US, but here is your chance to get an early jump on tasting it.
Aguas Mansas is a mezcal that was shared with me by Leon Vazquez, a bartender at Lolo Restaurant. It’s an espadin from Matatlan and tastes so different from what I usually expect from mezcals from that region. This is a mezcal that may hit our shores in 2016.
And of course there will be some surprises as well, perhaps even a few from my private collection especially a madrecuishe made by Reyna Sanchez who was just profiled in this piece by Grace Rubenstein on NPR about female mezcal makers.
Be sure to check out the event website that has all of the details for not only for the Grand Tasting on November 15th but also for the other activities happening that week. But get your Mezcal Lover’s ticket today because they’re limited, we will sell out, and once they’re gone, they are literally gone.
Technically we should know since we named our VIP level ticket that for this year’s Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle but we’ll cop to it being great marketing language and leave any discussion on the larger topic for those who want to split hairs. Because, mezcal is really generous. If you like it, it likes you. Hell, we probably like you.
But enough of this babble, we want to unveil those awesome copitas custom crafted for this tasting.
These were designed and hand made by LA based artist Emelda Gutierrez. Each is distinct, and comes with that special “Mezcal Lovers” package. We’ll have a few extra on hand to sell to everyone else so if all the lovers get their tickets before you.
In Situ’s Ulises Torrentera and Wahaka’s Raza Zaidi discuss the finer points of mezcal.
Yesterday was a good day. I had a nice lunch at Calavera with Susan and then spent a little over two hours in Ulises Torrentera’s “Arte del Mezcal West Coast Tour” sponsored by Wahaka and organized by the same brand’s Raza Zaidi. Suffice to say that it was a cozy and mind expanding gathering on Calavera’s deck what with that late fall sunshine providing the perfect mood lighting as Ulises guided us through his thoughts on mezcal while Raza translated.
Today the tour heads to San Diego and Thursday Los Angeles before it heads to the North West. Full dates are on the Facebook page here. If you have a chance, go. It’s a casual and really fun encounter for anyone whether they’re a hard core aficionado or a complete newbie.
Kudos to Ulises and Sandra for making the voyage, we can’t say enough about Raza and Wahaka for setting this up. The altruistic spirit that animates events like this is what Susan and I are all about. But enough about us, here’s a quick clip of Ulises discussing the origin and importance of ensembles, apologies for the breaks which were for translation. He went on to talk about how they may just model the future of sustainable mezcal. For more on that and other topics you’ll need to attend one of his talks.
We are Susan Coss and Max Garrone. We like mezcal and think you should to. We are committed to telling the story of mezcal within the context of its history and cultural connection. We also think education should be fun and delicious. And we are deeply committed to supporting the craft of production and the people who work tirelessly to bring us mezcal.
We write this blog and conduct mezcal tastings from small monthly to events to our annual Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle event, which is the largest mezcal event in the United States.
Susan Coss is a long time marketing and communications strategist in the world of sustainable food and beverages. She was most recently the Director of Marketing and PR for CUESA, the organization that runs the world famous Ferry Plaza Farmers market in San Francisco. She is also a co-founder and former director of the Eat Real Festival, that drew more than 250,000 people in its first three years. She has spent time in Oaxaca since 2003 and has established food and beverage relationships all over California, Mexico and Washington, DC. She has a degree in Agricultural Economics from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
Max Garrone has been a journalist and editor who covered events as diverse as presidential elections and the meaning of David Lynch’s movies for publications like Salon.com and SFGate.com. He is currently a content strategist and digital media consultant.
To chat or find the answer to your niggling mezcal question just email us!