We all know these are weird times we are living in. I live in NYC, and there is an unsettling calm to our lives; no traffic, relatively few people out and about, everything closed, no Naked Cowboy in Times Square, and a million other oddities. Yes, this is largely true everywhere, but perhaps the contrast to our normal cacophony is more striking here. This is the epicenter and IT is swirling all around us, yet when you walk out the door, you simply feel out of sorts and know something’s just not right.
In this environment, there are many great causes to support and my wife and I and our friends have been doing just that. We are all doing what we can for the healthcare workers, the restaurants and bars, the local businesses, the essential workers, plenty of charities and many more. So when an effort popped up on FaceBook the other night with a plan to help mezcaleros in Santa Catarina Minas (SCM), I thought, “Now that’s a great idea too!”.
SCM is a storied mezcal making town less than an hour south of Oaxaca, and I go there with great enthusiasm every year! As soon as my plane lands, I’m like Trump running for a Big Mac. I can’t wait to get there! SCM is known for their handcrafted, very small batch, clay pot distilled mezcals. A few well-known brands like Real Minero and Lalocura are there, but so are dozens of others who have no brand. I’ve bought many AMAZING mezcals in that town! Most of the producers in SCM make a living by selling mezcal to the tourists, and with no tourists, guess what? They are suffering economically. Again, they are not alone – a lot of people all over the world are. But if you love mezcal, and love Oaxaca, this is a fantastic way to support this community.
Lou Bank, founder of S.A.C.R.E.D. put this together. What is SACRED? From their website:
SACRED is a USA-based, 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation that helps improve lives in the rural Mexican communities where heirloom agave spirits are made. We host educational tastings and develop other forms of fundraising to underwrite programs that help replant agave, build libraries, ensure water security, and repair damage done by earthquakes.
However, if you want to buy some mezcal, do not go to the SACRED site. You need to go to THIS SITE.
UPDATE: Lou has added another set of mezcaleros and you can buy mezcal from them on THIS SITE.
The second site has my main man Felix Angeles on it. Anyone who follows me knows I worship him (though not in a weird way).
Lou is a great guy and a mezcal evangelist. So he found a creative way to support this community, and he calls it Mezcal Futures. In a nutshell (or perhaps, small copita), you buy mezcal today and pick it up later in Oaxaca. Certainly, for those of us who are lucky enough to go to Oaxaca regularly, this is an easy trade – great mezcal at prices that are 50%-75% less than what you would pay in the U.S. for something similar. And maybe if you have never been to Oaxaca and are aspiring to go, this will be an impetus to book that flight. But yes, the trick here is they cannot ship it, so you have to go get it.
Right now, Lou has four producers selling mezcal on his SITE. He put it up quickly, and it is not the prettiest website you’ve ever seen, but it gets the job done. And you can pay with PayPal. I’ve been to two of the featured palenques: Lalocura and that of Don Pablo Arellanes Ramirez, and their mezcals are incredible. I do not know the other producers, but I trust Lou not to lead me, or you, astray.
Of course, I bought too many bottles – I am very enthusiastic about mezcal (did you know?). I actually bought more bottles than I can realistically bring back in one trip. And I look forward to my SCM scavenger hunt, showing up with my PayPal receipt in hand, and asking these mezcaleros to unearth my bottles (apparently 3 of the 4 producers are going to bury the purchased bottles, which is supposed to help the mellowing process of the mezcal). Will they look at me like I am fucking nuts, or embrace me and appreciate that I chipped in? I am betting on the latter. As they say in Philly, “Trust the Process.”
I know of another storied mezcal family that is trying to put together something similar to what Lou has done with this effort, and there are probably others too. They are all likely to be “pick up in Oaxaca” type offers, but don’t let that discourage you! If you know of other efforts, let me know and I can add them to this post. In the meantime, be safe out there, and Drink Mezcal!