Lots of good information in this article about the plight of the maguey. While that does a good job of framing the issue which we’ve written about as well, you also have an opportunity to support the recovery of wild maguey (also known as agave) species in a more consumerist fashion. The Fundación Agaves Silvestres is working to replant wild maguey populations. It’s a tough effort but it’s one of the more interesting out there. You can support it directly and reward your taste buds by purchasing their Vino de Mezcal series. And wouldn’t you know that it’s your lucky day because Erick Almamezcalera who is intimately involved in that project is on a swing up the West Coast offering tastings of the series. We’ll have more from him later this week but here are his tour dates:
Posts from the ‘Tastings’ Category
- Forever Oax Espadin
- Forever Oax Espadin con Gusano
- Forever Oax Reposado: Espadin, Cirial, Barril agaves.
- Leyenda de Guerrero con Gusano: Espadin abocado con gusano.
- Felino Reposado: Made from blue agave in Zacatecas. Aged six months in white American oak.
You can find many of them at San Francisco’s La Urbana and Francisco is hitting the distribution pavement so potentially other locations soon. We’ll be sure to clue you into a new line he’s bringing into the country just as soon as it’s street legal. The party was great, lots of interest in mezcal and a fairly informed audience. Oh and the staff was top notch and entertainment in the form of Hanna Rifkin and the Handsomes kept all of us bouncing. With crowds like that you might be able to start believing the hype that mezcal is the next big thing.
We spent a very nice afternoon yesterday at the Ruta de Mezcal tasting in Tres’ back room along with a lot of people we know in and around the industry as well as plenty of new faces. There were fantastic new haircuts, smashing facial hair stylings, new mezcals, cocktails galore, a spit roasted pig, and plenty of other hijinks.
- El Jolgorio’s SF coming out party: While they’ve been busy making the scene in NY and many other ports of call in North America this was the first time most San Franciscans had a chance to try their line up. Like Vago, El Jolgorio has a wide launch, 10 bottles, and most of them come from silvestres. Their distinctive illustrated labels are quite something.
- Mezcal Vago is really hitting the scene for the first time. They’ve been on the market for a few months now but it’s the first tasting where we were able to drink their mezcal side by side with everything else. Quite a nice contrast.
- Tosba had the unreleased Tobala out on their table. Once it’s released definitely track it down. Plus they’re all legit and shit now with Elisandro Gonzalez and David Gallardo of Lolo decked out in monogrammed shirts. Don’t worry, it hasn’t gone to their heads.
- Wahaka showed off their tiny bottles which are an ideal commercial format for mezcal. A 750ml bottle can be intimidating but the trio of 200 ml bottles in a box replete with two vaso veladora make for a perfect gift or self contained party. You can find them at K&L.
- Cocktails were big: Nearly every brand presented something special along side their straight tasting which tells you tons about how a lot of mezcal is being served. We also heard plenty of bar managers and caterers at the tasting talking about cocktails so that side of the business seems to be on the move.
- Hidden attractions: While there were few truly new mezcals out on the tables we tasted four (two arroqueños, a lovely herb and spice (yum cardamom), and a new Alipus which are soon to be released and just missed out on another. Suffice to say: If we could speed up the permitting process in Mexico everyone would be in mezcal heaven right now. We’re all just going to have to be patient but that taste of heaven is just around the corner, stay tuned.
This past Wednesday night I poured La Niña del Mezcal at a Tastemade event at San Francisco’s Ferry Building with Reza Esmaili of Derby Cocktail Co. The experience was fascinating for what it said about one of the core issues in the mezcal world: Should you drink it straight or in a cocktail? You know it’s an issue because you’ve seen all the great cocktails being made from mezcal and witnessed the volume that goes into that. Pretty much any restaurant or bar that has mezcal on the menu features it in a cocktail and just by looking around you can see that the cocktails are what are moving with nary a glass of pure mezcal being served. Those cocktails represent critical revenue all along the economic chain; restaurants can make great margins from them, importers and distributors as well not to mention the people who actually distill and bottle our favored spirit. And yet, it’s also a profound blow to the heart of mezcal.
Wednesday night’s tasting was casual with me pouring mezcal straight on the left and Reza making a mezcal piña colada on the right. The vast majority of guests reflexively reached for the cocktail first so it was everything Reza and I could do to convince them to try the mezcal neat first. With a little push, most everyone did try the mezcal and most of those said they liked it. Quite a few circled back for another drink of even after drinking Reza’s great cocktail.
All of this is a good thing. I had a great time a while back testing mezcal’s amazing flexibility as a cocktail base and continue to be amazed at how bartenders use it. But it’s also something I love to drink straight and would love to introduce to the world that way. I know that you have to get people used to it and that cocktails are the gateway to that experience, but I would so love to find a way similar to last night’s tasting that jumped the queue and took us straight to Go because all those people asking us where they could find a bottle or buy one immediately last night are well on their way to the promised land of the mezcal industry.
Susan and I had a great time at Tamarindo’s innaugural Mezcal and Tequila Festival yesterday. Tamarindo is an ideal spot, fantastic antonjitos in the hot weather, and that bumping downtown Oakland scene. It’s like the Mission 15 years ago with a diverse mix of people hanging out and an incredible scene that includes the Trappist next door, Umamimart around the corner and much more action in the neighborhood. Alfonso Dominguez has done a lot to foster that atmosphere and his influence was evident everywhere from including Umamimart’s gold plated bar ware on the bar to his family managing the entire scene including his dozing son Diego.
The tasting was arranged around cocktails and brands, here’s another spot that Alfonso managed to integrate some of the local vibe because each cocktail was concocted by a local bartender ranging from Troy Bayless and Jacobo Juarez up at Duende to Scott Baird over the bay at Trick Dog. Reps like Jake Lustig backed his diverse line up of Don Amado mezcal, Tequila ArteNOM, and Mina Real at one table (unfortunately they weren’t pouring one of his greatest and most recent discoveries, a Fernet Vallet and Amargo Angostura to look out for) while Raza Zaidi backed Wahaka at another. My tasting highlight was the brand spanking new Mezcalero #7 which Craft’s Katherine Lewis was pouring for the first time in the US. The mixture of Sierra Negro, Tepetazatae, and Tobala is something to seek out once it hits bars and retail shelves, ideally later this month.
Best of all it seems like this sort of tasting is starting to happen a lot more. Mezcal and agave distillates may finally have a moment to celebrate. We’ll certainly be doing our part for the cause with a tasting of two exciting silvestres in San Francisco this Saturday night and look forward to doing many more.
Join the Mezcalistas for the next Music.Art.Mezcal. extravaganza at Submission Gallery in San Francisco’s Mission District August 24th.
It’s an exciting night of Son Jarocho, art, food and, mezcal, with Felipe Colon talking about two exciting silvestres – Verde and Bicuishe – that you won’t find anywhere else in the U.S. Be there or be square…
Submission Gallery 2183 Mission Street between 17th and 18th 7:30-11:30pm
Artists: Alberto Toscano, Dennise Ogato, Gato, Marc Horns, Rhea Shin, Txutxo Perez
Band – DiaPaSon (Son Jarocho)
DJ – Ricardo Ibarra, Radio Indigene
Food: Soul Cocina
Video from: Mescal Archivo
Update: Tamarindo is offering Mezcalistas readers 20% off through Eventbrite. Here’s the url www.mezcaltequilafestival.eventbrite.com and here’s the discount code: tequila468 Hope to see you there.
Lucky you, this Sunday, August 8th Tamarindo in Oakland is hosting a mezcal and tequila tasting. We’ll be there along with some very interesting and important people so if you’re interested in a good time and the fruit of agave definitely come on by. That good time means that mariachis will be in effect while Gloria Dominguez, Tamarindo’s chef and owner, will be serving antojitos from Jalisco and Oaxaca. Don Amado’s Jake Lustig will be there along with Alipus and Mezcalero from the mezcal side of things. The tequila world will be well represented by Don Julio, Siete Leguas, Don Pilar, and Seleccion Arte NOM.
I was in New York City last weekend for a wedding so I took the opportunity to sample the local mezcal scene. The big event was dinner at Empellon Cocina followed by drinks at Mayahuel but I also had lunch at Rosarito and chatted up bar tenders wherever we were. If you follow us on Twitter you already know my main observation: NY sees a different mezcal line up because of different distributors or distribution strategies. I noticed Buho in many bars as the sole member of the mezcal club, sadly but cutely stationed next to the Fortaleza and Partida, aka club agave. Del Maguey, Illegal and Fidencio were also frequent members but once we got to Empellon and Mayahuel things changed dramatically.
As you walk into Empellon you’re confronted with a cone of mezcals rising behind the bar capped with some fantastic rarities like a bottle of Real Minero. The menu is full of finds like that, there is a Mijes Joven, a Union, and a Yuu Baal. Then there are the full lines of the mezcals that we see in California like Del Maguey, Fidencio and Illegal.
Empellon is justly known for its food so be prepared for a special culinary experience, the squid with mole is a revelation but there are so many fun things that marry perfect technique with the world of Mexican ingredients that it’s hard to get bored. I thought the asparagus tacos would be the dud on the menu but it ended up being one of the best things there: Two fat stalks of asparagus in the middle of a tortilla topped by a mixture of parmesan and peppers and a bit of salsa off to the side. Simple and yet incredibly dynamic. Everything there paired perfectly with the long list of mezcals.
Mayahuel is just around the corner and, while also a restaurant, it’s much more of a classic East Village scene. Their mezcal menu is a bit more limited but contains many of the same things at Empellon. As with most places that feature mezcal (including Empellon) the mezcal cocktails are the crowd pleasers. The space is bright, fun and loud spread out over two floords in something resembling an old Moroccan restaurant.
Later in the weekend we stopped for a quick lunch at Rosarito in Williamsburg and were pleasantly surprised to find that they had a robust mezcal menu. It seems like that’s the general trend but I’m looking forward to a more extensive research trip soon to make sure.
Obviously I missed plenty of places. I really wanted to visit Casa Mezcal which is a few short blocks from Empellon and Mayahuel but just couldn’t make it. Suffice to say that I’ll definitely visit on my next trip so if anyone has great ideas on where else to visit on that, as yet, unscheduled trip give us a buzz.
Two among many great events to recommend as part of the Hola Festival May 15-22. First, we’re co-hosting a great event at La Guelaguetza May 16. In conjunction with the ever-wonderful Bricia Lopez we’ll be presenting Pedro Jiménez’s Viva Mezcal, a documentary that looks at all the people and politics that go into making mezcal. It’s a fantastic tapestry and we’re really excited to be part of it. But, as they say in the business, there’s more! After the screening Chef Rodolfo Castellanos from Oaxaca will present a dinner complimented by a mezcal tasting. For tickets go here. Here’s a taste of the documentary:
Just a few days later on Sunday, May 19th La Gran Parrillada takes over La Plaza de Cultura Y Artes. Aficionados of new Mexican cooking take note because it’s a superstar line up with luminaries like Javier Plascencia heading the bill. There’s not a slacker in the group including Aquiles Chavez, Pablo Salas, Rodolfo Castellanos and Jose Ramon Castillo. This being a showcase for the Mexican culinary moment, there will also be tequila, mezcal and some interesting Mexican wines. For tickets go here.
A tremendous thanks to all of you who stopped by Sub-Mission Gallery this past Saturday for our Music.Art.Mezcal. extravaganza. It was a dream come true to organize an event like this. For me, I can’t imagine mezcal existing in a vacuum without music, art and food to accompany it. It’s personal for sure and goes back to that moment in time in 2003, in the panteon in Oaxaca, surrounded by Dia de los Muertos altars, banda musica, dancers and a bottle of mezcal being passed around.
Of course a huge thank you to the artists whose work adorned the walls: Calixto Robles, Joaquin Newman, Txutxo Perez, Lapiztola Stencil, Yescka, Lorena Zertuche, Viet Chévez and Knut Hildebrandt. All of the art is for sale, so if you see something in the below gallery that catches your fancy, let us know and we’ll connect you with the artist!
Max and I had a great time talking mezcal, sharing the stories (and tastes) of mezcal from Don Pedro Garcia, Reyna Sanchez (Reinita) and Mezcal Tosba.
Check out the great photos that hopefully capture the energy of the night. There is something potent and magical about the combination of food, art, music and mezcal. We are hoping this is the first of more – and in fact, plans are underway for another extravaganza at the end of July.
Again, thanks for such a fun night!