Recently, a VERY knowledgeable mezcal market participant hypothesized the following theory: all of the variations and multiple products being pushed out by individual brands is confusing to the average mezcal consumer and potential mezcal consumers. This person felt there were too many tobalas, pechugas, madrecuixes, etc, and that the overwhelming number of choices led to no choice being made. It’s like all those great Taylor Swift songs: how can you choose which one to listen too?
Could all the mezcal choices lead to drinker inaction? Let’s start by looking at tequila. With tequila, there are more than 1,000 brands, but virtually every one of them has the same three products: silver, reposado, and anejo. And it is all blue agave by definition. Simple. These 3 expressions are readily understood by most tequila consumers, and even if they do not know this, people are rarely confused. You walk into a bar, you see tequila behind the bar, and at most, you see 3 bottles of the same brand, but even that is not at every bar. (more…)
I could not let this tragic, devastating, and historic event go by without saying something about it. Many have said that this is New York’s “Katrina”, and they are right. The loss of life is not as great, but the pain, suffering, loss of property and tremendous sense of dislocation for so many is vast.
You really cannot imagine what the past week has been like unless you have lived it. Public officials are calling this the greatest natural disaster to ever fall upon New York. I am certain the same is true for NJ, and CT is not far behind.
The range of how people have been effected is very broad. To begin, it was the tale of two Manhattans: above 30th St or so, life was basically normal. Below 30th St. was something out of a post-apocolypse movie, only everything was still standing. If you have seen the Will Smith movie, “I am Legend”, you would begin to get the scene. (more…)
So there I was, there I was, in the Congo. Oops, wrong story. There I was at the bar at Empellon in the West Village in NYC. Matt Resler, bartender extraordinaire, passionate agave expert, and all around good guy, was kindly pouring me what he believed to be was the release of a VERY SMALL BATCH production of Siete Misterios Mezcal. This brand is not yet available in the U.S., but is coming soon. Matt gets this stuff because, well, he is Matt. I wish I was Matt.
Why did Matt think this bottle of Siete Misterios was a very small batch? Because the bottle was hand numbered as bottle number 20 out of 21! Yes, bottle 20 of 21. Ahhh, I’m not sure what the definition would be of “small batch”, but I am guessing that this qualifies! (more…)
What is the difference between tequila and mezcal? I get this question all the time, as I imagine most people do who are in and around mezcal. It is a fundamental question on the path to mezcal enlightenment. Of course, today, mezcal can best be understood by simply tasting any of a handful of premium mezcals that have come to the US in recent years – try Ilegal Mezcal or El Jolgorio, for instance, if you are looking for some great mezcals to start with. But in the meantime, before we appreciate mezcal, understanding why it is different from tequila is a great place to start.
This post gives you the basics, but if you really want to understand and appreciate what separates mezcal from tequila, you need to read my book Holy Smoke! It’s Mezcal! (shameless self-promotion perhaps, but hey, the blog is free so this is my form of selling ad space!). The book is available on Amazon. Notice the cool cover shot to the right. Buy a copy – I promise you won’t be disappointed! Now back to our regularly scheduled program…
I believe that for most people tequila leads to mezcal (even though all tequilas are mezcals, but we will come back to that). Tequila leads to mezcal because for most of us, it started with tequila. We traveled down a path that likely started with bad tequila, bad experiences, and bad results the next morning. Then we slowly found our way back to the good 100% agave tequilas that started showing up in the 90’s. And maybe we enjoyed the extra anejos that move tequila toward cognac. And then, what? What else is out there? Ahhh mezcal….I’ve heard about that. The rise of the extra anejos coincided with the arrival of fine mezcals and then they started to appear on the shelves at your local liquor store and on the cocktails menus of your favorite gin joints. So tequila brought us to this point and now mezcal joins the discussion…. (more…)
This is a quick note to add one inspiring mezcal cocktail to last week’s post:
My wife and I went into the restaurant Up the Creek in Vail for a date night on Monday. Our intention was to stop in and have a drink before we went for Sushi. Now Vail is not a well-known mezcal mecca, but you are starting to see some mezcals around town: Del Maguey, Sombra, Ilegal, and even one rare Mezcalero sighting at Vin 48 in Avon.
Behind the bar, we spied a bottle of Ilegal Reposado and they even had an associated mezcal cocktail on the drinks list! Things were looking Up (the Creek)! We began chatting with the bar manager, Wes Cole, and quickly figured out he had some serious mixology cred. I asked him what he was making with the Ilegal Repo, and I was soon drinking this gem: (more…)
While the headline is Mezcal Summer Cocktails, in truth, I have never met a cocktail that I loved in the summer, that I did not love in the winter (or the fall or spring). If it is good, it is good, and I am happy to drink it year-round. So here are two recent favorites that I have been introduced to that are likely to blow your socks off!
Larkspur Mezcal Margarita
This recipe, as the name suggests, comes from the Larkspur restaurant in Vail, CO. They were making this (and continue to offer tequila or mezcal) with tequila, and I suggested to them that making this with a mezcal would probably be sublime. So they did, and it is! But credit to them for the very original cocktail recipe, and besides, I pretty much think any cocktail tastes better with mezcal! Here it is: (more…)
OK, I am really behind. I hate when my MBA gets in the way of my PhD. So yes, I have been too busy to put up many posts, so I have some catching up to do. I also owe a strongly positive review to Matt Resler and Empellon here in NYC – the mezcal is strong with that one for sure! That post will be coming.
But for now, let’s talk about the Master Mezcalier Class that I attended in May. As you may know from prior posts, I was quite psyched to attend this course and start the process toward formal mezcal accreditation. (more…)
My wife and I went to the Spirits of Mexico Tasting recently at Agave in the West Village. Overall, it was a fine event which featured many tequilas and a handful of mezcals. However, I was a bit disappointed that there were not other Mexican, agave-based spirits that were represented. It would have been easy it seems to get a sotol there, as I can buy them at my corner liquor store (in fairness though, my corner liquor store is pretty adept at agave-based spirits since I am in the neighborhood!). Or how about some bacanora? Maybe the vendors have to buy their way in and the other Mexican spirits did not want to play? At any rate, it would be nice to see them expand beyond tequila and mezcal. (more…)
I always keep a running mental list of all the mezcals I taste and read about that are made with magueys other than the agave espadin (which accounts for about 90% of mezcal production). For years, really the only one I would see beyond espadin, was the Del Maguey Tobala.
However, in the last few years, I have started to see other agave varieties pop up in mezcal such as madrecuixe and tepeztate. But I keep hearing there are about 30 varieties of agave that can make mezcal, so first I started wondering where they all are hiding (perhaps with the Knicks offense?), and then I wanted to know precisely which agaves can be used to make mezcal. (more…)
I recently came across a post from another mezcal blogger, La Nina del Mezcal (click to see her post), that I found to be interesting. It was about the “MEZCALFEST DF 2012”, which was apparently recently held in Mexico City, though I confess that I cannot find anything online in English about this mezcal festival (yes, my lack of Spanish language acumen is a chink in my mezcal armor!).
But nevertheless, her post intrigued me because there was a list of the top 10 mezcals from this festival. Was this La Nina’s list? An official list? I am not sure and she does not say. Please, La Nina, enlighten us!
But I am always on the look out for premium mezcals so this list got my attention. However, the only mezcal on this list that can be had in the U.S. is Wahaka, which I have tried and is quite good. The others, while I had heard of a few, cannot be found in the U.S. (please tell me differently if you know better), so keep this list handy next time you are mezcal binge-ing through Oaxaca and bring some back!
Here is the list from La Nina with a few judge-a-mezcal-by-its-label-and-packaging comments from me :
1. Mezcal El Cortijo. Label is a Freaky Friday Valentine. Man with pig nose ripping heart out of dowdy puritan lady. (more…)