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Posts from the ‘Tastings’ Category

Meet the Karwinskiis

Agave karwinskii

Agave karwinskii. Photo by Alex Huhn from

Our next Mezcal Martes tasting at Lolo in San Francisco is “Meet the Karwinskiis” on July 8th 6-7:30 we will be tasting 4 mezcals for $25

Wahaka – Madre Cuishe
El Jolgorio – Barril
Pierde Almas – Tobaciche
Del Maguey – Papalome

Last time out we tasted a variety of espadin mezcals, the bedrock agave behind most Oaxacan mezcal. This time we head out into the wild world of silvestres with a side-by-side tasting of four Oaxacan mezcals made from the Agave Karwinskii family which is one of the most common wild agaves found on the market. These bottles reflect the variety of terroir and their makers’ hands and offer great comparison so RSVP, we look forward to seeing you there. San Francisco Weekly just highlighted the event as well.

Join us for Mezcal Martes!

photoIt’s been a while since one of our big tastings but we’ve been busy with private tastings (yes! we definitely do them, just email if you’re interested) and events like our recent pouring at the Mexican Museum so now we’re getting back to the heart and soul of our mezcal evangelism. We’ll host mezcal tastings at Lolo, 6-7:30PM, the second Tuesday (Martes) of June, July, and August. That means our first tasting is this coming Tuesday June, 10th!

Space is limited at the Benito Juarez bar so send us an email of you want to reserve a spot.  The price will be $20 for five, half ounce pours. Susan and I, though I’m missing the first one because I’ll be in NY checking out a few mezcal bars there, will walk you through the variations in the bottles, history, and answer all your questions. This first tasting will focus on the wide variation in the world of the mainstay of mezcal, the espadin. You’re welcome to stay after the tasting to sample more of Lolo’s extensive mezcal collection or to eat.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Max and Susan

What’s happening with Maguey?

Earlier this year we asked mezcal wrangler extraordinaire Erick Rodriguez, aka Erick Almamezcalera, what he thought about the current state of the mezcal world. We’re publishing his comment along with a follow up lower down in this post in anticipation of his West Coast swing which starts tonight in LA and runs into next week. He will be leading tastings of Vino de Mezcal, the super rare (indeed they may already be sold out) line of mezcals from a variety of locations across Mexico imported by the Fundación Agaves Silvestres.

We can’t stress how rare this line of mezcals is and how they communicate just an iota of the world of mezcal out there. It’s a fantastic way to expose yourself. And, yes, the price does reflect the work involved because the distillation runs are very limited. Should you need any conscience cleansers the project was created both to bring you these limited delights and to funnel revenue into a truly worthy project of planting wild agaves outside of the town of Oaxaca in San Dionisio Ocotepec.

The translation comes to us courtesy of Gabriel Baum of

Per Erick Rodgriguez here’s what’s up with the world of maguey:

The point of view of many people who only know that mezcal comes from one or two states, or alternatively who only know what is happening in this current “boom”. .. If we don’t do something there will be a lack of maguey-mezcal in a not too distant future.

As was foreseen two years ago, the “looting” of maguey raised a level of disquiet among people who may or may not have known that this supposed “looting” (there is really no such thing) had already been going on since the 70′s. There are people, the same as those who exist in all types of Mexican businesses, who pay the mezcal producers for their maguey or for their mezcal at a higher price. This happens and will go on happening because there is no price that is worthy of their mezcal. There were tequilas that were made in Oaxaca from the 70′s onwards, that were marketed this way, here and abroad; for example Tequila Porfidio. From that point onwards there were irregularities, there were no rules or regulations for mezcal let alone anyone who would stand in the way of this development. Because, remember, traditional mezcal was only drunk and marketed within the communities in which it was grown, and elsewhere it was only known as a nasty drink of bad quality, or a poor person’s drink. So the village chiefs bought it or bartered it for their daily needs.

Thanks to the media coverage and to the interest of a few people or brands, it was marketed and distributed in this new “boom.” Some do it openly, others are masked and, as a result, there are a whole lot of people and personalities behind each marketer of mezcal. Nowadays “everyone knows about mezcal” and wants to have a brand, some because of the cachet, some because of fashion.

People! There are a lot of types of maguey in other states, it’s just that Oaxaca has the greatest number of types and varieties in the world. But another problem that we have is that we are using the wild maguey as a draw. People know that maguey is scarce and they want to stockpile all that is left on the mountains and in the valleys before someone else buys it and it acquires more prestige as a mezcal. Many people want to have something that maybe in the not-too-distant future might be a piece of history as in “once there was a maguey called Cuarentero and this Master Mezcalista only has one maguey of this variety left”

There are internal regulations or rules that are followed by each marketer or that say “This maguey is an ‘x’ and we are replanting 2000 new plants so drink it with pleasure because mezcal of this variety will always exist – Are there really such rules? Or are we really saying “Drink this because it is like the last panda bear on the planet and this is your only chance”.

Regulatory centers? People, we know this was badly done right from the beginning in 1994; it’s a matter of wiping them out and starting afresh. It’s a matter, for example, of taking actions with one’s own producers, otherwise it’ll be the same as what happens in every “boom”.

Well, maybe if each time is different, the difference is that the biodiversity of the maguey plants is being lost and won’t be with us for the next “boom” which will take place again in 15 to 25 years. And we don’t know if we’ll know what to do. Significant interests exist behind the scenes and they will continue to be driven by the industry. Taking action with your producers would be a good start. Make them part of the decision-making process and make them feel supported by paying them better so that they don’t have to sell off or squander their maguey.

The latter is what is happening in Durango, lately more than 5 tons of juice are leaving WEEKLY, and the owner was very clear with me: “I would like to have cash jingling in my pocket. If I turn it into mezcal it’s not so good for me and if I sell it as juice they pay me better and I don’t have to wait for them to come or to distribute it. If I store it it’s not good for me either because I haven’t got money for promotions, bottles, labels, transport etc. These days they pay me better for the juice and that’s what we need, money coming in so that we can go on sowing maguey.”

So, what will you do Mezcalista friend? Would you take some real actions? Help spread the category/concept of mezcal or just advertise brand names and drinking places? Where to start? Who’s responsible for all this? Many people who have been organized since the 90s produce almost 4 million magueys a year to cover their demand. Does this tell you something?

Whenever you’d like to discuss and have work groups on the subject… It would be a great pleasure for me to be invited and to take part. If you have any questions or doubts we can discuss them. Personally. I am at your disposal. Erick Almamezcalera.

We chatted really quickly with Erick earlier this week in advance of his tasting tour of the West Coast:

What I’m bringing this time to the USA is the voice and responsibility of master mezcaleros, we want people to be able to identify different types of mezcal and the methods of production that are being used, the types of maguey and where agave distillations are produced in Mexico. We will show that there are three types of mezcal, namely industrialized, artisanal and traditional. We will get to know what is “Mezcal Wine.” (Vino de Mezcal) What to look for? What is there behind each one of the distillations, creating traditional micro-harvests each one of which has the fully named varietals. Our mezcals are a traditional Mexican drink extracted from wild agave and made by master mezcaleros with ancestral knowledge, respecting traditional manufacturing processes and, as a result, offering us soul enriching experiences and unforgettable states of consciousness.

With the responsible consumption of our mezcal you help to keep this thousand year tradition alive, you support the sustainability of more producing communities, you strengthen fair trade and you help avoid the inclusion of industrial structures in the production of this drink.


Save the maguey by drinking its distillate

erickrodriguezLots 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:

Mezcal forever

Thursday we poured at the Food & Farm Film Fest opening night after party at Root Division with Francisco Javier Perez representing his line of mezcals. It was quite a diverse list composed of

  • 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.

Ruta de Mezcal just ran through SF

The cast and crew who served up some delicious mezcals at Tres.

The cast and crew who served up some delicious mezcals at Tres.

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.

Highlights included

  • 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.

    Pouring and informing the public.

    Pouring and informing the public.

  • 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.

    Tosba came with monogrammed shirts.

    Tosba came with monogrammed shirts.

  • 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.

    For the discerning brief case.

    For the discerning brief case.

  • 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.


Mezcal’s cocktail problem

Max Garrone pours La Nina Mezcal at Tastmade.

Max Garrone pours La Nina Mezcal at Tastmade.

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.

Tamarindo brings mezcal and tequila to Oakland in style

IMG_2467Susan 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 our latest tasting August 24th in the Mission

Join the Mezcalistas for our latest tasting August 24th, 2013 in the Mission.

Join the Mezcalistas for our latest tasting August 24th, 2013 in the Mission.

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

$7 cover

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

Mezcal this Sunday night in Oakland.

Update: Tamarindo is offering Mezcalistas readers 20% off through Eventbrite. Here’s the url 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.

Details: Tamarindo, 468 8th Street Oakland. Sunday, August 18, 2013 from 3-7pm. Tickets cost $65, which includes admission, food, and drinks. Tickets can be purchased at: or

Flyer for the August 18th, 2013 mezcal and tequila tasting at Tamarindo in Oakland.

Flyer for the August 18th, 2013 mezcal and tequila tasting at Tamarindo in Oakland.