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Posts from the ‘Tastings’ Category

Our kind of town

Quiote's Dan Salls prepares his variation on Al Pastor Tacos for Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle Chicago 2016

Quiote’s Dan Salls prepares his variation on Al Pastor Tacos for Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle Chicago 2016

Chicago is, to paraphrase Sammy Cahn’s lyric, really our kind of town. And we can’t wait to do it again next year! This town loves its mezcal, evidenced not only by the number of agave centric places that have opened (or will open) in 2016 alone, but also by the enthusiasm of everyone we met. The events leading up to the big tasting day – a special tasting at Las Flores, a Vago event at Estereo, a Dark Matter coffee cupping that included a special mezcal coffee, a Del Maguey dinner at Birrieria Zaragoza, a mezcalero led tasting in Milwaukee at Great Lakes Distillery, and an afternoon blind tasting at The Sportsman – laid the ground work for even more mezcal fun in the future. The possibilities are endless.

The mezcal selection at Mezcaleria las Flores in Chicago.

The mezcal selection at Mezcaleria las Flores in Chicago.

As for Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle, we couldn’t have asked for a better venue than Chop Shop. Located right in the heart of Wicker Park, it sports a fully functioning butcher shop, take out counter, bar, and restaurant seating. The massive, two tiered, event space in the back created the perfect vibe for our tasting.

Chop House is more than just a name, it's a fully functional butcher shop.

Chop House is more than just a name, it’s a fully functional butcher shop.

And man oh man did we have a lot of mezcal for folks to try, including a few not-yet-in-the-market surprises. There was even Cervicería Allende – a craft beer from San Miguel de Allende making its way into the US market. Additionally a couple of maestro mezcaleros from Oaxaca – Carlos Mendez of Cruz de Fuego and Don Armando Isidro Aquino of A Medios Chiles – were able to make it, and gave an interesting presentation on their experiences and on-the-ground perspective on the world of mezcal.

Don Armando Isidro Aquino of A Medios Chiles (left) and Carlos Mendez of Cruz de Fuego.

Don Armando Isidro Aquino of A Medios Chiles (left) and Carlos Mendez of Cruz de Fuego.

Let’s take a minute to dive into the food at the event which was out of this world. We were blessed with the restaurants that participated and can’t thank them enough for what they added to the event. Jonathan Zaragoza of Birrieria Zaragoza hit it out of the ballpark with his squid ink tostada topped with a braised tripe. Dan Salls of the soon to open Quiote blew though his al pastor tacos in no time – no wonder given the perfectly cooked pork. Dove’s Luncheonette served a very seasonal apple cider mezcal cocktail alongside a refreshing blue fish escabeche. Ixcateco Grill served up a delicious salad that was so fresh and tangy alongside a prickly pear, aka tuna fruit, and mezcal cocktail. Finally,  Chef Carlos Gaytan of Mexique had a Cochinita Pibil with Wahaka Mezcal that showed why he is one of the best Mexican chefs out there!

Squid ink and tripe tostada

Birrieria Zaragoza’s squid ink and tripe tostada

As for the mezcal, the sheer range of what was being tasted was extensive. Regionally speaking there were mezcals from Guanajuato, Durango, Guerrero, San Luis Potosi, Michoacan, Puebla, and of course, Oaxaca. This type of representation gives people a chance to understand not only the stylistic differences in production, but also the influence that different maguey, terroir, and water sources have on flavor. In addition to the Meet the Mezcaleros presentation Jay Schroeder of Las Flores Mezcaleria gave a talk that delved into these flavor differences and what that means for the world of cocktails.

It was all so much fun that the time completely flew by and before we knew it, it was over. Already the ideas are buzzing for next year. We’d love any thoughts or suggestions on things folks might want to see. Here’s a little video our colleague Adrian Vazquez took to give you a sense of the scene.

What are some of the big takeaways?

  • All big cities are not alike. The New York market seems to be the more cocktail driven. That’s not to say cocktails aren’t big in Chicago, but it seems to have made the jump to embracing neat faster than New York.
  • Chicago loves its Mexican food, as it should with its long history and innovation with the cuisine.
  • People love the stories behind the mezcal, the more personal, the better.
  • Don’t forget the state north of the city. Wisconsin, with its love of brandy and whiskey is a natural expansion market. Can’t you see a flask of mezcal at a Packers game or drinking it alongside a brat?
  • This market has nowhere to go but up. Several more agave centric restaurant/bars are in the works, and it is entirely possible that Chicago could eventually become the number one market for mezcal in the next two years.

A huge thank you to Lou Bank for all of his help in making this happen and to Chop Shop for being such a great venue. To the awesome folks at Pilsen Outpost who brought such beautiful art for the tiendita they set up, to our stellar volunteer Ariel Aguilera and to all of our restaurant and mezcal participants – a very big thank you! Now, on to Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle San Francisco on November 13th!

Check out our photo gallery below to get a better sense for the entire Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle Chicago experience.

Why Chicago?

Occasionally someone asks “Why is your next Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle tasting in Chicago and not my home town?” I can answer in a variety of ways but the easiest and best, because it’s true is that Chicago has become a real mezcal town in the past few years. We’ve been amazed as mezcal popped up in bar menus and then bars flipped from being agnostic to becoming temples of the agave spirit. It really is amazing.

Just take a look at this map to see all the location action, our full list of where to drink mezcal in the United States is here, close observers will note that Illinois is only second to California which definitely represents our geographical bias. We’re addressing that as we travel so tell us where to visit next.

In the interim, all eyes are on Chicago where we’ll be tasting mezcal at bars like:

Stay tuned for news about special tastings at some of the bars and restaurants involved in Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle Chicago so make sure to get your tickets today! You don’t want to miss this tasting.


We’re fighters and lovers


It’s been more than a week since the awesome Lucha de la Cocina and now that we’re finally back on top of the world, or recovered, we’ll share some photos and a quick recap. We had close to 2,000 people which was an amazing turn out. And, it was for the greatest of causes, a fundraiser for La Cocina! Read more

Lucha, mezcal, beer, tacos: What more could you ask for?


All right folks, this is your last chance, tickets are going fast so you’d better buy now to get down at a fantastic event this Saturday in San Francisco for a fantastic cause. There’s so much happening at this Saturday’s Lucha at Pier 70 that I have to break down into easy bites Read more

State of the industry update


Ven a Comer is this year’s MexIAM motto.

Last year’s Mexican Consulate tasting was a good snapshot of what a lot of mezcal makers’ ambitions. As I wrote at the time, there was an awful lot of mezcal out there trying to get into the North American market. The production volumes were enormous, and there were a tremendous number of brands vying for attention. The strange thing is Read more

Putting the mezcal into Mexrrissey

Last night’s Mexrrissey concert at the JCC in San Francisco was quite an affair. Our mezcal tasting beforehand with Raza Zaidi of Wahaka, Lynne Bauer pouring Alipus, and Adrian Vazquez pouring Almamezcalera was quite a hit with the crowd that was a hybrid of the original Morrissey demographic, younger Mexicans, and a few groups that we couldn’t identify.

One thing is for sure, everyone had a blast of time. There was lots of screaming and dancing; you know you’re doing well when even the ushers and security people are bopping along to the music.

Here’s a taste: Read more

Morrissey, mezcal, and Mexico

MexrisseyAt first you may not think the three things have much in common but Mexican cover bands have been remaking Morrissey obsessively with fantastic results for years and Mexrrissey in particular has taken that idea to its logical conclusion; a traveling show of Spanish language covers of Moz’s greatest and most interesting songs. There are even Smiths covers on the line up. Listen up: Read more

What are you fighting for? The ultimate Lucha Libre/Taquiza/Mezcal event!

What happens when you combine Lucha Libre, Tacos and Mezcal? We now have the answer – La Lucha de la Cocina! Mezcalistas is beyond excited to be working with La Cocina, one of the most amazing non profit organizations here in the Bay Area, and Pro Wrestling Revolution. This fundraising event will take place August 13th at Pier 70 in San Francisco. Read more

How fun is Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle?

Don’t take our word for it, take a look at this video of the 2015 Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle in San Francisco. This year we’re expanding so tell all your friends that we’re bringing Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle to NYC 6/5 & 6/6, Chicago 9/18, then back to where it all began in SF 11/13.

Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle comes to NYC!


We are super happy to announce that Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle will premiere in New York City this June 5th and 6th at Casa Mezcal. We’ve always wanted to take our tasting on the road and it’s finally time.  We’ll feature our patented mixture of fantastic mezcals, cocktails, bites, luminaries from the mezcal world, all wrapped in the music, video, and art of contemporary Mexico. You can see our full mezcal and programming line up on the Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle web site. 

Lest you think we’re lazy, we’re also bringing Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle to Chicago on September 18th, back to San Francisco November 13th, and we’re looking at a few other locations for next year. Watch this space for details!