Here we go. Strap on your agave nerd hat! I have been working on this new piece for months. I put up my first post on this topic in May, but I have learned more since then and this list is better. Perfect? No. But better. You see, it is a difficult topic to tackle. Let’s start with the mezcal regulators.
Mezcal had its first modernized set of government regulations, called NORMA in 1994. A new NORMA was drawn up for mezcal in 1997 and revised in 2005. Under the new laws, all mezcal production must be certified in order to sell or export it. The NORMA lists only 5of the common varieties of agave from which mezcal can be made, such as espadin and tobala.(more…)
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…)
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…)
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…)
I had the good fortune of being at a cocktail party on Saturday night where mezcal was the featured spirit. A mezcal party? You know good things are going to happen and a good time will be had by all. While many mezcal libations were going around, the highlight of the night for me was a reintroduction to the Oaxaca Old Fashioned.
This cocktail has been written about a fair amount, so I am not trying to beat a dead horse. But I am sure that even a few committed mezcal fans have never tried one, and my mission is to continue to educate and inspire everyone in the mezcal spectrum (from expert to novice). So why not write about something fabulous even though some may be familiar?
This drink was originally developed by Phil Ward, when he was at Death and Co., before he opened Mayahuel, one of the best tequila/mezcal bars in the world. My friend, Steve Olson, was at said cocktail party as well. If you do not know of Steve, he is a renowned wine and spirits professional, with a deep (some may say insane, which I respect) passion for mezcal and tequila. While discussing the various cocktails that were being offered, Steve began talking about the magic of the Oaxaca Old Fashioned and how he felt it presented mezcal in a brilliant way. Though it was not “on the menu”, after some coaxing from the host, Steve stepped behind the bar to make a few.
I curse the worm! Well, OK, that may be a bit dramatic, but I am definitely not a fan of the worm. The only good place for a worm is in the mouth of a fish.The worm I am going to talk about today is more correctly referred to as a larvae (a gusano in Spanish), and can be frequently found in the bottom of a bottle of mostly BAD mezcal. There are two types of maguey worms that infest (that’s right, infest) agave plants: white maguey worms and red maguey worms.
The white maguey worms, known as meocuiles, are caterpillars of a butterfly. The butterflies deposit their eggs at the heart of the leaves of the agave. The larvae then eat the flesh of the agave stems and roots, sometimes boring out the agave completely.
The red maguey worms are known as chilocuiles, chinicuiles or tecoles, and are the larvae of a moth. These infest the core and roots of the maguey plant, often in a glutenous mass. Who wouldn’t want to eat a glutenous mass?? Let’s celebrate these majestic creatures by putting them in the fine spirit known as mezcal! (more…)
Whenever people ask me how I like to drink mezcal, I say “often”. But usually they are wondering if I like to drink it on the rocks, neat, chilled, in cocktails, or whatever. My first response is that you should drink it however you like and not worry about whether there is a “right way” to drink mezcal. It is an awesome, fun, festive spirit, so enjoy it in a way that you appreciate.
I know you are well aware of Cuervo Gold, and I am also guessing that you have heard about Wild Shot Mezcal. I will come back to Cuervo, but first let’s discuss Wild Shot. It was launched in early 2011 by country singer Toby Keith, who apparently is very
popular, though I don’t think I run with his crowd. Keith is going for the mass market in terms of branding, marketing, packaging, but strangely, not really pricing at $40 a bottle or so. Maybe his slogan should be, “Don’t buy that 12 pack of wife beaters at Walmart. Buy mezcal!” He also sells this, uh, ahh, mezcal, at his 11 or so Bar and Grill’s that he owns around the country.