Recently, I put up a post on why mezcal is happening now. I started thinking about this again (well, OK, I am always thinking about this) as I saw yet another article where they described the recent popularity of mezcal as “Mezcal’s Moment.” And I realized that this drives me crazy! Just Google “Mezcal’s Moment” and see how many misguided articles pop up!
“Mezcal’s Moment” aggravates me. Bothers me. Annoys me. It’s not gross like the guy I recently saw clipping his nails on the subway, but just simply wrong. You may ask why I am up in arms over this when this whole blog is about celebrating mezcal?? Well, it is because “a moment” suggests a temporary condition. Mezcal is not a temporary condition! (more…)
Like many of my posts, I try to hit upon themes that I hear about all the time from friends, family and people I meet. If I had a bottle of mezcal for every time I am asked “What is mezcal?”, I would have quite a collection. And I have quite a collection – see what I mean?
What is mezcal? Why is everyone talking about it? (well, maybe not everyone – just everyone who knows ANYTHING about ANYTHING!). Mezcal is any spirit that is distilled from an agave – though not everyone can label it as such as you will see below. So tequila is a mezcal, for example, because it is made from the blue agave. What distinguishes mezcal is where it is made in Mexico, the production process, and the types of agaves used. I go into depth on this topic in a variety of previous posts so check out THIS ONE from last August if you want more on this.
Now on to what I really want to write about in this piece: Why Is Mezcal Happening Now? There is not an obvious answer, and for that reason, I wanted to explore the topic. So let’s start with a bit of background.
I live in NYC and have been a passionate premium tequila lover for close to 20yrs. As the premium tequilas (and I am not talking about the only-margarita-worthy Patron)really began to come to market in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, I began to get deeper into great tequilas. Then when my wife dubbed me a “tequila collector” I felt I had license to really go nuts, and the bottles really began to pile up!
But mezcal in the late 90’s and first half of the 00’s? It barely existed. I would dabble (and I loved it) when I saw a bottle of Del Maguey, but that was rare. I am talking really rare. Rarer than the NY Post front page without Lindsay Lohan and a bottle of Jack. .
There was a night a few years ago when I decided to have my own very private mezcal tasting. I had collected a few very nice bottles at that point and wanted to try them side by side to compare, contrast, and enjoy. But by myself? Sure. Why not? Just me and my booze. But my wife was worried about me, my parents called, neighbors knocked, the dog barked (imagine my shock since I don’t have one). They thought I was going over the edge (the edge of glory perhaps!). But it was alright. I had a great time and learned a few things along the way.
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…)
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…)