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Mezcal

123 posts in this topic

I don't mean to open up a can of worms, but have you considered celebrating Cinco de Mayo with the other tequila, called mezcal?

The worm, of course, refers to the agave worm suspended within bottles of cheap, rocket-fuel mezcal, the hooch that's made any number of college students late for their first class. Mezcal is a quirky and occasionally sensational spirit that differs from tequila chiefly in the way that the main ingredient, agave, is processed.

Yesterday's Detroit Free Press full article here.

Cheers!

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Okay, I'm going to bump this thread for the simple reason that it already has the most concise title for my purposes.

What I want to do is resurrect ('cause it seems to have gone fallow for a while) the mezcal discussion:

Which brands do people like?

What's the difference between joven and reposado for cocktail purposes?

What sorts of cocktails people are making with mezcal (besides the excellent ones I've had at Death & Co!).

Speaking of D&Co drinks: Made myself a Jovencourt daiquiri using 2 oz. Barbancourt white rum, juice of half a lime, a splash of agave nectar, and a Los Amantes Joven rinse. Will probably try something next for which I'd normally use a tiny dose of smoky Islay whisky.

Any further suggestions?


Mayur Subbarao, aka "Mayur"

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Here's one developed by Erik Adkins for a bar in Oakland:

carter beats the devil

2 oz el tesoro reposado

1 oz lime

1/2 oz organic agave nectar (rainbow bulk)

1/2 oz del maguey minero mescal

20 drops (eye dropper) of chile tincture

served up

chile tincture:  fill a jar with de-stemmed intact thai chilles and cover with wray & nephew overproof for two weeks.

Thad Vogler also had a really nice cocktail on the Jardiniere menu with one of the Single Village Mezcals. Single Village Fix, I think it was called, sweetened with Pineapple Syrup and also had a touch of spice. Great feature for that tremendous Mezcal. I'll have to email and see if he'll give me the goods, since I don't believe he is at Jardiniere any longer.


---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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Here's one I've been working on. It's stiff but nicely balanced. Maybe a dash of agave?

2 oz chamomile/ceylon cinnamon infused Herradura*

.5 mezcal (Del Maguey Chichicapa)

3 healthy dashes Bittermen's chocolate bitters

dash maraschino

stir and strain

flamed orange twist

* 1/2 cup of chamomile flowers. Sit for several hours. Strain and remove chamomile. Add handful of ceylon cinnamon bark and let sit 4-6 days, agitating daily. Filter.


Edited by TVC (log)

"Wives and such are constantly filling up any refrigerator they have a

claim on, even its ice compartment, with irrelevant rubbish like

food."" - Kingsley Amis

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Ron Cooper at Del Maguey (http://www.mezcal.com/) is the place for all things mezcal. He has worked hard to ensure product certification etc. I like the tobala the best.

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Ron Cooper at Del Maguey (http://www.mezcal.com/) is the place for all things mezcal.  He has worked hard to ensure product certification etc.  I like the tobala the best.

Is it me or are these really expensive? $45+ for a bottle is as much as 12 or 15 year Scotch. Why is mezcal, which doesn't require aging, that expensive? Are they much cheaper in Mexico?

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Ron Cooper at Del Maguey (http://www.mezcal.com/) is the place for all things mezcal.  He has worked hard to ensure product certification etc.  I like the tobala the best.

Is it me or are these really expensive? $45+ for a bottle is as much as 12 or 15 year Scotch. Why is mezcal, which doesn't require aging, that expensive? Are they much cheaper in Mexico?

My guesses are: because there isn't much demand for them, so it's more expensive to transport a smaller amount of something than in bulk, and that yes, they would most likely be less expensive.


Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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Ron Cooper at Del Maguey (http://www.mezcal.com/) is the place for all things mezcal.  He has worked hard to ensure product certification etc.  I like the tobala the best.

I just met Ron Cooper at a tasting and have to say that this guy knows what he is talking about. We had three different Mezcals, all of them stroke me with a huge resemblance of Islay whiskys. Rather high in proof, smoky, salty and certainly not comparable to the Tequila you usually see around.

We had the Chichicapa, the Tobala and the most odd Pechuga...a triple distilled mezcal using chicken, fruit and nuts as flavor agents!

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I have often remarked that tequila offers fairly low "quality per dollar" compared to other spirits. A decent bottle of 100% agave tequila will run you around 35 dollars, whereas excellent (I would even suggest objectively better) bottles of rum, whiskey and gin can be had at around $20 a bottle.

The price point for good quality mezcal is even higher. For example, the excellent quality Los Amantes joven mezcal retails at around 60 dollars a bottle. That's right around the same as Highland Park 18 year old single malt scotch! As good as the Los Amantes mezcal may be, 18 year old orkney single malt it ain't.

That said, there are some things that contribute to the high price of quality tequila and mezcal (it is, of course, entirely possible to buy cheap, crappy bottles of either product). Some of it is certainly a matter of supply and demand. This is undoubtedly especially true in the case of high-end mezcal. It's also extremely expensive to make a high-end mezcal. The agave plant has to grow for something like eight to ten years before the piñas can be harvested. That's a large initial investment of time, money and risk before the raw ingredient is even ready to be used, and there is really no comparison to other raw ingredients used for distillation such as grains, fruits and potatoes, all of which are ready to be used within one season. Finally, in order to make a mezcal worth drinking, the distiller has to lightly bake the piñas with wood in small ovens for several days, ferment a mash of 100% agave for a month or more and then do multiple small-batch runs through a pot still. Each one of these steps adds cost.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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I have often remarked that tequila offers fairly low "quality per dollar" compared to other spirits.  A decent bottle of 100% agave tequila will run you around 35 dollars, whereas excellent (I would even suggest objectively better) bottles of rum, whiskey and gin can be had at around $20 a bottle.

Good point, and I'm also often bewildered at how the white, unaged version of a line can be as expensive or nearly so as the reposados and anejos.

Slightly off-topic, but as far as a value-priced 100% agave goes, I'm liking the Sauza Hornitos Plata at around $25/bottle. Of course I'm only just finally coming around to tequila after years of strongly disliking it, so take this recommendation with a grain of salt.


Edited by thirtyoneknots (log)

Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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I'm also often bewildered at how the white, unaged version of a line can be as expensive or nearly so as the reposados and anejos.

I think it's because most of the money is invested up-front in growing the agave and the other things I outlined. Also, the reposado and añejo bottlings aren't aged as much as you might think. Reposado mezcal is only aged between two and twelve months, and añejo mezcal only needs to be older than one year to qualify for the designation. When you consider the entire production cycle starting with the growing of the agave, a joven mezcal might take 8 years and a reposado mezcal might take 8.5 years (aged 6 months) and an añejo mezcal 9.5 years (aged 1.5 years). These are only production time increases of 6.25% and 18.75% for reposado and añejo, respectively, versus joven mezcal. Looking at the Los Amantes mezcals, Astor Wines sells the joven for $60 and the reposado for 8.3% more at $65.

So. . . it's not the same thing as, say, whiskey, where the vast majority of the production time and expense happens post-distillation. In contrast, an 18 year old single malt has a production time that is 50% longer than a 12 year -- not to mention that there are increased losses due to the "angel's share."


Edited by slkinsey (log)

Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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I'm also often bewildered at how the white, unaged version of a line can be as expensive or nearly so as the reposados and anejos.

I think it's because most of the money is invested up-front in growing the agave and the other things I outlined. Also, the reposado and añejo bottlings aren't aged as much as you might think. Reposado mezcal is only aged between two and twelve months, and añejo mezcal only needs to be older than one year to qualify for the designation. When you consider the entire production cycle starting with the growing of the agave, a joven mezcal might take 8 years and a reposado mezcal might take 8.5 years (aged 6 months) and an añejo mezcal 9.5 years (aged 1.5 years). These are only production time increases of 6.25% and 18.75% for reposado and añejo, respectively, versus joven mezcal. Looking at the Los Amantes mezcals, Astor Wines sells the joven for $60 and the reposado for 8.3% more at $65.

So. . . it's not the same thing as, say, whiskey, where the vast majority of the production time and expense happens post-distillation. In contrast, an 18 year old single malt has a production time that is 50% longer than a 12 year -- not to mention that there are increased losses due to the "angel's share."

Good points all around, thanks


Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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Sam makes good points.

A couple others.

First, spirits prices seldom make actual sense. There is always an aspect of "what the market will bear" and also the fact that spirits have to be at a certain price point to be taken seriously by the connoisseur market. Many 100% Blue Agave Tequilas are in the $50 range these days. This is a more craft distilled, natural product. I don't see why they shouldn't charge more.

Craft distilling, anywhere, is expensive and time consuming.

As Sam points out, it takes time to grow Agave, several years, as opposed to corn or wheat which only takes a season. During that time, the farmers still have to make a living, and be compensated enough to convince them not to pull out the Agave and just plant corn for methanol. Also, like everywhere else, the small farmer in Mexico is something of an endangered species.

If it doesn't seem like it is worth it to you, don't buy it. But, it makes more sense to me to spend $60 on a bottle of well distilled and tasty Mezcal than the same amount on a bottle of Stoli Elit (not saying that you would, mind you, just making a point.)


---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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But, as Sam notes, it's still insanely expensive. Moreover, I haven't seen any good deals on tequila, whereas one can often find great deals on single-malt (I've found Lagavulin 16 for as little ads $40, and Highland Park bottlings for a lot below retail).

My problem is that I really, really like tequila-based cocktails, and adapting them to other spirits is pretty much impossible. Likewise with mezcal; hence the dropping $60 on a bottle of Los Amantes Joven.

But yeah; I don't understand why tequila and mezcal are so darn expensive.


Mayur Subbarao, aka "Mayur"

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I blame Sammy Hagar.

:wink:


---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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Hey, Cabo Wabo reposado is a pretty good deal at $39! (Comparatively speaking, that is...)


Mayur Subbarao, aka "Mayur"

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I speculate that part of the reason is that demand is still not high enough. The only mezcals Spec's carries are the three Del Maguey, compare with the 100 or so varieties of scotch they have. If more people demand fine mezcals to the point that stores begin to carry a dozen or so brands, I'm sure the price would drop substantially.

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I gotta wonder, though. After all, tequila costs a packet.


Mayur Subbarao, aka "Mayur"

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Speaking of the whole Tequila/Mezcal thing, does anyone out there drink Sotol?

I realize its a different beast altogether. Agavacea vs Agave.

Never tried it, but it looks interesting and at a reasonable price point.

Anyone carry it up here in New England??

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Then there's xtabantun. All sorts of weird stuff south of the border.


Mayur Subbarao, aka "Mayur"

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It seems strange for me to say, but I've never had mezcal. Of course, living in PA we have only one choice, Monte Alban. I never figured it was worth buying since it's common and cheap, but the BTI actually gives it a surprisingly high rating (91). The idea of mezcal having a smoky taste I find very intriguing. Does anyone here have an opinion of Monte Alban, either way? Is it worth trying? Would it give me the wrong impression of what mezcal is about?

The thing I find odd about the relationship between tequila and mezcal is that mezcal is likely to be made up of various types of agave, just not (necessarily) blue agave, whereas mixto tequila needs only 65% blue agave and the remainder doesn't need to be agave at all, but "other sugars". So some mezcal can be more agave than some tequila!


Mike

"The mixing of whiskey, bitters, and sugar represents a turning point, as decisive for American drinking habits as the discovery of three-point perspective was for Renaissance painting." -- William Grimes

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Just bumping this see if anyone has an opinion to offer about mezcal. What's good, what's not. Is Monte Alban typical of the category? Also, a correction to my previous post: 65% should read 60%.


Mike

"The mixing of whiskey, bitters, and sugar represents a turning point, as decisive for American drinking habits as the discovery of three-point perspective was for Renaissance painting." -- William Grimes

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Monte Alban's all right, and will certainly provide an example of a good mezcal. However, IMO, Los Amantes Joven and Los Danzantes Reposado are best-in-class for their respective categories.


Mayur Subbarao, aka "Mayur"

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Monte Alban's all right, and will certainly provide an example of a good mezcal. However, IMO, Los Amantes Joven and Los Danzantes Reposado are best-in-class for their respective categories.

Thanks. I'll have to hunt down one of those when traveling or have a friend pick some up, but in the meantime I'll give Monte Alban a try. I would have anyway, but wanted to see what someone else thought of it. You would think that by now even the stodgy PLCB would have brought in at least one more choice of mezcal. I guess they need the room for more vodka. :angry:


Mike

"The mixing of whiskey, bitters, and sugar represents a turning point, as decisive for American drinking habits as the discovery of three-point perspective was for Renaissance painting." -- William Grimes

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Death & Co. has a bunch of great mezcal cocktails. To me, really one of the things that separate them from all the other bars. Does anyone have any recipes that they can post here? What mezcal do they use?

I just picked up a bottle of Monte Alban and I'm liking it a lot, especially for the price. Any other good ones under $30 a bottle?

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