Mezcal is the new tequila

Well, maybe not because I’m still a huge fan of tequila, but you cannot ignore the meteoric rise of Mezcal. And, it’s something all bars should be paying attention to. I’ve said this before but people love unique experiences when it comes to food and beverage.

While dining at ACRE restaurant in San Jose del Cabo recently, I met Dani Tartarin who is operations manager for the restaurant. She is super passionate about mezcal and she presented three very unique examples for us to compare. As per tradition, the tequilas were served with orange slices sprinkled with three different house made salts, gusano (the worm that burrows in the agave plant), chapulines (grasshopper toasted on a comal with lime and garlic) and jamaica (hibiscus).

Dani’s knowledge of each mezcal was impressive. She has traveled extensively around Mexico selecting unique and rare mezcal for the restaurant. What sets the restaurant apart is how she uses her knowledge to create an experience that distinguishes ACRE from its competition.

So, to repeat a message I’ve given before: Don’t just follow current trends, create a unique experience around them that defines your brand.

For the real mezcal enthusiasts, I have included Dani’s excellent tasting notes below.

From left to right:

Tepextate – from San Dionisio Ocotepec, distilled in Copper by Jose Manuel Martinez 51% alc. vol. 80L produced in October 2016. Tepextate comes from the Agave Mamorata family. The plant on average spends around 12 to 15 years in the ground before it is harvested, it is short and stalky with fat round light green pencas (leaves). This is one of our house expressions of Mezcal that I chose when visiting Palenques in Oaxaca. Jose’s wife greeted us at the palenque very cordially and I was charmed by her sweetness and humbleness as she expertly lead us through a tasting of their most recent batches. I love the complexity of this mezcal. The flavour I find is sweet, fruity (guava, ripe pear), touch smoky. On the nose, I get a pleasant cooked agave aroma with slight peppercorn. It has a nice mouth feel and the flavor lingers pleasantly.

Mezcaloteca – Bicuixe from Miahuatlan, distilled in Copper by Ageo Cortés 46% alc. vol 80L produced February 2015. Mezcaloteca is known as one of the finest places to drink and learn about mezcal in Oaxaca. They collect small batches from producers and conduct tastings in their quaint Mezcaleria. Each bottle shows all the relevant information about how the mezcal is produced on the label. This mezcal in particular is from the Agave Karwinski family and the piña is long slender and palm like. The tasting notes I find are slightly acetone on the nose with unripe banana and barnyard. The mezcal itself has a “green” note on the palate followed by cinnamon and bitter almond.

Siete Misterios – Espadin “Olla de Barro” (distilled in Clay) by Don Jorge Sánchez in the village Sola de Vega. 49% alc. vol. produced in July 2015. Espadin is one of the most common agaves used to produce mezcal because it grows easily and is quite large, with long pointy bright green leaves, the piñas can weigh up to 400 pounds. Siete Misterios is a mezcal mark owned by two brothers, Julio and Eduardo Mestre who have been travelling to Oaxaca since they were boys with their family. They came to love mezcal and decided they wanted to start their own line of mezcals to work with the families they visited regularily and who’s product they loved. I’ve become good friends with Eduardo and Julio over the last four years since my first visit to Oaxaca and they are very passionate about spreading the love of mezcal. This mezcal is a beautiful expression of Espadin. Distilling in clay generally gives a softer more rounded flavor. On the nose, I get over-ripe banana, prunes and plum with a hint of wet clay. The palate is not sweet like the aroma its slightly spicy with ripe fruit, bitter chamomile and tabacco finish.