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Posts tagged ‘Wahaka Mezcal’

Mexico in a Bottle DC – kicking off 2017

The Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington, D.C.

In the spirit of transparency, here’s some background on how the whole idea of how Mexico in a Bottle – Washington,  D.C. came about:  DC is my hometown, but now, my immediate family lives with me on the West Coast. I miss DC, I miss my friends, and I really needed to come up with a reason to visit. Then there was a random meeting and conversation I had with Pati Jinich, the terrific Mexican chef, culinary anthropologist, and resident chef at the Mexican Cultural Institute in DC. She told me that the Mexican culinary scene in Washington was growing. A seed was planted and I told Max that DC needed to be on our shortlist of event cities for 2017. Read more

Cocktails, beer, mezcal and more – this Lucha is going to rock!

It would be fair to say that despite the fact that we do an awful lot of events, we don’t consider ourselves event planners. This is why we are such believers in collaboration. We always try to work with the best of the best who bring their game to whatever event we have going.

This is especially true of the upcoming La Lucha de La Cocina on August 13th at Pier 70 in San Francisco, a collaborative fundraiser for La Cocina, the non profit culinary incubator in San Francisco’s Mission District that helps <primarily immigrant> women start formal food businesses. In addition to the Lucha Libre and Taquiza (taco extravaganza) which we previously wrote about, there will also be three bars hosted by some of San Francisco’s most innovative bars and restaurants – ABV, Old Bus Tavern, and Novela. Read more

Oh we got our pulque on!

Photo by Davina Baum.

Photo by Davina Baum.

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

Mezcal boot camp

In Situ's Ulises Torrentera and Wahaka's Raza Zaidi discuss the finer points of mezcal.

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.

A guide through the Odyssey of mezcal

Ulisses' West Coast tour postcard

Ulisses’ West Coast tour postcard

His name is legend in the mezcal world, strangely appropriate given for the role he plays. Co-owner with Sandra Ortiz Brenna of the equally legendary In Situ mezcaleria in Oaxaca City. Ulisses, Sandra, and In Situ are famous because they’ve been bringing incredible small batch mezcals to the attention of the world with incredible attention to the pedigree of each bottle and deep knowledge about all the processes, people, and myths that define the world of mezcal.

The Catedral reflected at In Situ

The Catedral reflected at In Situ

That’s all great and good but should you live somewhere on the west coast consider yourself truly blessed because Wahaka Mezcal is bringing Ulisses through California, Oregon, and Washington later this month for a grand tour of mezcal establishments along the PCH. Tickets are now available to each of his tour stops from San Diego to Seattle. The Arte del Mezcal class is a full presentation on the history and development of mezcal while the “Meet and Greet” events are what they say, social mixers where you can chat about all the mezcal and non-mezcal topics that you can get into the conversation. Just note that you’ll see two preview events, Ulisses’ actual tour doesn’t start until 10/19 in San Francisco.

A glance at In Situ's selection

A glance at In Situ’s selection

Dive in, I know that you’ll regret not going. I’ve been counseled that there’s a slight chance that dates are subject to change but I’m sure you won’t lose your money because the reputable people at Wahaka are behind this tour. Here’s the full tour list:

Tickets

Monday, October 19

“Arte del Mezcal” class by Ulises Torrentera presented by Wahaka Mezcal
La Urbana
661 Divisadero St
San Francisco, CA 94117
6-9pm

Tuesday, October 20
“Arte del Mezcal” class by Ulises Torrentera presented by Wahaka Mezcal
Calavera
2337 Broadway
Oakland, CA 94612
1:30-3:30pm

Tuesday, October 20
Pairing/Dinner with Wahaka Mezcal & Ulises Torrentera “Meet and Greet”
Calavera
2337 Broadway
Oakland, CA 94612
4:30-8:00pm

Wednesday, October 21
“Arte del Mezcal” class by Ulises Torrentera presented by Wahaka
Mezcal (Industry only)
Cantina Mayahuel
2934 Adams Ave
San Diego, CA 92116
2:30-4:30pm

Wednesday, October 21
“Arte del Mezcal” class by Ulises Torrentera presented by Wahaka Mezcal (Public)
Cantina Mayahuel
2934 Adams Ave
San Diego, CA 92116
6-9pm

Thursday, October 22
“Arte del Mezcal” class by Ulises Torrentera presented by Wahaka Mezcal (public)
Guelaguetza
3014 W Olympic Blvd,
Los Angeles, CA 90006
6-9pm

Friday, October 23
“Meet and Greet” Welcome Party
Teote Restaurant
1615 SE 12th Ave
Portland, OR 97214
8-11pm

Saturday, October 24
“Arte del Mezcal” class by Ulises Torrentera presented by Wahaka
Mezcal (due to demand, pre-qualified Industry people only)
Teote Restaurant
1615 SE 12th Ave
Portland, OR 97214
10am-2pm

Sunday, October 25th
“Meet and Greet” Welcome Party
Liberty Bar
517 15th Ave E
Seattle, WA 98112
7-10pm

Monday, October 26th
“Arte del Mezcal” class by Ulises Torrentera presented by Wahaka
Mezcal (due to demand, pre-qualified Industry people only)
Mezcalería Oaxaca
2123 Queen Anne Ave N
Seattle, WA
11am-

Tuesday October 27th
“Arte del Mezcal” class by Ulises Torrentera presented by Wahaka Mezcal
Hilltop Kitchen
913 M.L.K. Jr Way
Tacoma, WA 98405

Tickets

Ulisses surveys the scene

Ulisses surveys the scene

Los Borrachos – throwing a mezcal tasting when #lovewins

It takes some cojones to throw a mezcal tasting in San Francisco during the annual SF Pride celebration. Add to that the historic Supreme Court decision on same sex marriage, a Giants home game, and the farewell Grateful Dead concert, and you are looking at truly committed mezcal lovers who made their way through mayhem to taste some really new and exciting mezcals, paired with great eats.

Erick Rodriguez and Adrian Vazquez, Los Borrachos, put together this tasting event at Bartlett Hall to showcase traditional mezcals. In addition to brands already in the market like Wahaka, Tosba, Del Maguey, Don Amado, Alipus,  and Mezcalero there were some new bottles from the Heavy Metl fold – Rey Campero, Mezcaloteca, and Real Minero – which will soon be imported to the United States as well as fresh bottles from Erick’s Almamezcalera label. Totally new to the market and making their debut were Mezcal Los Gentiles and Chaneque.

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How you pace yourself at events like these is the big question. I go for tiny tastes. I also try to focus on mezcals I’ve never had first and see how it goes from there.

Erick Rodriguez of Almamezcalera

Erick Rodriguez of Almamezcalera

My first stop was with Almamezcalera. Erick was pouring three new mezcals all distilled with spices and herbs and made from espadilla, a wild espadin, and distilled in clay and wood. I will not call these “healthy” mezcals, as I think mezcal holds medicinal properties period. I started with the Cilantro and Hoja Santa which was incredibly herbaceous (of course) and vaguely anis like. At 54% it was big, spicy and smooth. Next up was the mezcal distilled with ramos – considered a cleansing herb – and at 61% it was surprisingly non-alcoholic, very green and herbaceous. It felt more medicinal in the same way that Fernet does. Last up was the cinnamon and cacao, also at 61%, which was neither sweet nor perfumey which was what I was expecting and why I tasted it last. All three of these mezcals would work great as both aperitivos and digestivos.

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Next up was Chaneque, a major reason I braved the insanity to come to the tasting. I had tried their madrecuishe once in Oaxaca and was intrigued. Juan Carlos Rodríguez, owner of Chaneque, had the whole lineup, and a couple of special mezcals under the table. I rolled through the 59% Coyote from Matatlan; the Mexicano from Sola de Vega (surprisingly musky and not the usual hot sweetness I’ve come to expect from Mexicanos); a 52% 8yr aged (in glass) Espadin from Zoquitlan which blew my socks off with its thickness and richness, and proof of why an Espadin should never be considered pedestrian; a very dry and mineral 52% Tepestate from Sola de Vega that had a strong bite in its finish; and finally a 47% Tobala from Matatlan that had the perfect sweet finish to it. Chaneque should be in the market in a couple of months with the Espadin, Madrecuishe, and Tobala.

Clase Azul Cenizo Mezcal

Clase Azul Cenizo Mezcal

The 49% Mexicano from Los Gentiles was very subtle and had the lovely sweetness you get with this maguey. I saved their collaborative project from Clase Azul – a 44% Cenizo from Durango – for last. This project is an experiment with only 6,000 liters produced (a drop in the bucket for this tequila brand). Created with the idea of economic development and jobs – it is part reforestation/cultivation of a wild agave, part art project with is ceramic black bottles, and beaded tops, and a price point of $225.

Creme de Poblano soup from Mayahuel

Creme de Poblano soup from Mayahuel

Thankfully among all the mezcal was some pretty delicious food from Lolo, Uno Dos Tacos, Colibri, Mosto, and Mayahuel in Sacramento which wins the prize for most dedication to come all the way to SF in the midst of the traffic nightmare. And their creme of poblano chile soup – delicious. For me the true treat was the delicious drunken cake from Polvorón Panaderia in Hayward – course textured, moist and only slightly sweet. And their Tres Leches is the bomb. If you can’t get to Hayward, don’t worry, you can get the cake at Uno Dos Tacos.

Pastry from Polvorón

Pastry from Polvorón

 

 

 

Vino de Mezcal tasting

The full Vino de Mezcal lineup.

The full Vino de Mezcal lineup.

The Sunday before last I was privileged to attend a small tasting of Wahaka Mezcal’s latest line, Vino de Mezcal. As one of Wahaka’s founders, Raza Zaidi, explained Wahaka has a small non profit foundation called Fundacion de Agaves Silvestres dedicated to reforestring wild agaves. This is a pressing issue in the mezcal industry since wild agaves, called silvestres in Spanish, are in incredibly high demand, reproduce slowly and have been difficult to cultivate.

Raza explained that he and his partners feel an obligation to help repopulate silvestres and already have a nursery set up in the fields of their property in San Dionisio Ocotepec. They plan to transplant the first class of their agaves into the wild later this month and in early March. While the foundation is driven by the best of intentions Raza and his partners are perfecly cognizant of the problems they face. The greatest is crop loss which might be as great as 70% and, ultimately, Raza acknowledged, this is just a drop in the bucket for the rest of Mexico’s silvestres production. But they’re trying to get the project moving forward with the hope that they’ll have an impact down the road.

To get there they’re expanding how the foundation functions. To date it has run off a small donation from Wahaka. Starting this March or April that income will be supplemented by revenue from the sales of a line of mezcals sourced around Mexico. And those mezcals have been selected by none other than the Indiana Jones of mezcal, Erick Rodriguez. Erick guided us throgh a tasting of the Vino de Mezcal line and we’re happy to report that you’re in for something really special.

To start with these are extremely small bottlings of 60-80 liters each. They’re also from all over Mexico, sometimes outside of the legally defined area of mezcal but, as Erick noted, “they were called mezcals before there was a legal definition.” Erick makes his way across Mexico to the most remote distilleries and palenqueros to keep that tradition alive. He’s dedicated to bringing as much revenue from the project back to the palenqueros so that they can see the fruits of their labors. Each of these bottles is at least 50% alcohol while the Puntas, aka heads or the first alcohol out of the still, range up to 70%. You’d be hard pressed to pick out the Puntas because the alcohol doesn’t overwhelm the tastes. Just like at Mezcaloteca, each bottle has a simple list of all the pertinent information about it, who made it, where it’s from etc.

Here’s the line up, we’ll run a full review soon.

Tepache Espadilla (Espadin) from Puebla
Popamalo (tobala) from Puebla
Espadilla Pechuga from Puebla (also made with mole)
Sonora Lechugilla
Guerrero Capriatos
Michoacan Capriatos
Puntas from Puebla

Cheese and mezcal oh my!

I am a cheese addict – one could say it is like crack for me. The mere suggestion of doing a cheese and mezcal pairing, well it sent shivers down my spine. It doesn’t seem like an obvious pairing, but when you think about how well whiskey or scotch pairs with cheese, this is really just a natural extension.

We had a chance to crash a casual exploration of this combination last night at Mosto. Raza Zaidi of Wahaka Mezcal provided the mezcal and Kirstin Jackson of Solano Cellars and the blog www.itsnotyouitsbrie.com (she also has a book It’s Not You, It’s Brie: Unwrapping America’s Unique Culture of Cheese,” publishing in November) brought the cheese. We set up shop at the dark, back corner booth, drawing the immediate attention of the very loud (and yes, drunk) birthday party sitting next to us.

Nine cheeses and five mezcals, and a few Victorias were spread across the table.

The cheeses: Creameax de Citeax, Bent River, Mirabelle, Oma, Tomme Bruleé, Pecorino Foglie de Nocci, Bayley Hazen, Cabot Clothbound Cheddar from Jasper Hill and queso fresco with ate membrillo (generally quince, occasionally guava, paste)

The mezcals: Wahaka’s Joven Espadin, Reposado con Gusano, Tobala, Madrecuishe and the Ensemble (Espadin, Tobala and Madrecuishe blend). Note – we’ll have a full review of the line next week.

We first went through the mezcals to get a sense of their flavors, and then Kirstin went to work to try and pair up the different cheeses with the different mezcals. It was an interesting and tricky work determining which of the tangy, pungent, musky, sweet cheeses contrasted best with the mineral, earthy, hot, smokey flavors of the mezcals.

Not surprisingly, the cheddar and the pecorino paired well with all of the mezcals.  We assumed that the salty pecorino would pair well given the known flavor match of salty and spicy flavors with mezcal but the the big aged cheddar’s performance was a nice surprise.  The strong body brought out the brine and mineral flavors in the mezcal.   I liked the Creamean with the Madrecuishe because there’s something about the tangy triple cream that contrasts with the minerally/green flavor of the mezcal. The Tomme with the Joven totally brought out the heat in the mezcal, and the queso fresco with the ate brought out an amazing caramel flavor in the Resposado.

The tasting sparked quite a few dreams of other pairings.  One conversation decided that Parmeggiano just wouldn’t stand up to mezcal while another affirmed that Manchego and Gruyere would probably pair exceedingly well.  Which is to say that we look forward to expanding the range of the tasting soon.

The mezcal cocktail primer

There has been a mini-mezcal bubble in cocktails lately because bartenders have awoken to its potential and because it’s a good introduction to the distillate.  It’s a great backbone or compliment to a cocktail because of its body and complexity of flavor.  We’re almost absolutely sure that the majority of mezcal consumption in the United States goes into cocktails not only because that is how we drink the majority of spirits in the US but also because that’s the way mezcal is being promoted.  But the secret is that mezcal mixes well with almost everything, it really just depends on which mezcal you’re using and how much you want to foreground the mezcal taste.

Exhibit A is the classic margarita.  Instead of:

  • 1.5 0z tequila
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • .5 oz Cointreau

You can replace the tequila with a mezcal like Fidencio Sin Humo to get a smokeless flavor or Del Maguey Vida to get more of a full bodied agave flavor.  Even better, you can mix half your favorite margarita tequila with half mezcal for something truly distinctive.

The margarita is just the tip of the iceberg.  Mezcal mixes extremely well with any fruit based cocktail whether that be a fruit smash or the simplicity of a daquiri.  The agave flavor that mixes extremely well with sweet fruit and sour citrus.  But that’s just the beginning.

Over the past few months we’ve run through many experiments and have discovered that mezcal works exceedingly well in the full gamut of cocktails.  As a general rule if you’re making anything with a whiskey, scotch or tequila as its base, mezcal slots in as a perfect base.  The classic manahattan works with something like Fidencio Joven, Vida or Wahaka depending on the desired viscosity and flavor. If you find that a mezcal manhattan is overwhelmed by that agave flavor then try switching out the absinthe in a sazerac with a mezcal and see what happens.  In our experience it lends the drink a distinct and fascinating new life.  Not that the old one wasn’t worth living but since we live in an expanding universe you might as well grow with it.

If you’re making something gin or vodka based it really depends on whether and how much you like the flavor of mezcal showing through.  We’ve made mezcal martinis, mezcal and tonics, mezcal greyhounds and many more.  We’ve always found a way to make it work while acknowledging that this is the one instance where you may run into a wall.  Drinkers may prefer a rather flavorless alcohol base for these drinks, dislike the flavor of mezcal placed in such a primary role or simply love their gin or vodka.  If that’s the case the one gin cocktail we really recommend trying with mezcal is the negroni because the bitter campari and sweet vermouth are perfect mezcal partners.

But that’s just scratching the surface.  If you want to start innovating try the simple involution of tradition by taking the same proportions of the margarita, replacing the tequila with mezcal and lime juice with orange juice.  Instead of salting the glass rim use sal de gusano, Oaxaca’s classic mixture of ground up worms, chile and salt. This one glass combines the traditional serving of mezcal – you have a sip of mezcal, dip an orange slice in the sal de gusano and eat the flesh then continue your sipping and chatting.  This recipe relies on spice as a contrast to the flavor of mezcal and citrus.  That sort of foil whether it be salty, bitter, acidic or astringent provides critical balance to mezcal in cocktails.

Which mezcals to use in cocktails?

  • Del Maguey Vida – Somewhat smoky, heavy body and strong fruit
  • Fidencio Joven – Slightly smoky, lean body
  • Fidencio Sin Humo – Non smoky, lean body, slight fruit
  • Metl Joven – Mid-range alcohol and smoke.
  • Sombra – Strong alcohol, mid range smoke.
  • Wahaka Joven – Light and lean.  Not smoky.

There are many others but these tend to be the most widely distributed in the US marketplace and most reasonably priced for a cocktail bar.

Other mezcal cocktail recipes for your drinking pleasure:

 

Mezcal in Zapotitlan

There’s much of interest in this 9 minute video documenting mezcal production in Zapotitlan beyond the classic romanticism of the people and landscape of Mexico and mezcal.

The mezcal maker Don Macario Partida Ramos’ discussion of the local agave is particularly interesting.  He claims that 26 types of agave grow in the area, 12 on his land, and describes naming varieties after local ranches.  That gives you a good sense of how difficult it can be to exactly define the source agave for some mezcals since many producers use different names or spellings for the same variety.  It also gives hope that there are many more agave sources spread across Mexico that might alleviate the much discussed impending shortage of wild agaves in Oaxaca.

The shots of driving through the agave fields give a great sense of its cultivation in Mexico.  Amidst rows of well ordered plants you’ll also see tall cacti and trees. This is not unusual: Frequently in Oaxaca and specifically in this case Zapotitlan, you find a more casual approach to cultivation than the perfect rows of plants devoid of any non-salable produce. The shots also reinforce the system of integrated farming in these areas; generally beans, gourds and other crops are planted around rows of agave.

There’s also a fascinating picture of their distilling operation.  The still is something we haven’t seen before and would love to investigate further.  It’s described as of pre-Hispanic even though we’ve only ever heard that distilling arrived with the Spanish so that’s a point that bears some skepticism and further research.

Miguel Partida Rivera gives great insight into how some mezcal makers think about the relationship between of mezcal’s taste and alcohol level.  He claims that authentic mezcal has to be above 45-47%.  Below that it’s “water..with a taste of Maguey but with low quality,” which is a very traditional perspective in strong contrast with some new entries in the American marketplace like Wahaka which has consciously lowered the alcohol content in its entry level mezcal in order to make it more accessible to this market.