Sipping mezcal at Oaxaca’s Mezcaloteca is the kind of academic experience worn as a badge of honor among agave liquor aficionados. But, those who have spent night after night at bars like Mezcaloteca, In Situ, and Piedra Lumbre in Oaxaca—or tried to squeeze into La Clandestina in Mexico City—all seem to hold the conflicted view that the best agave varietals would never make their way stateside. Until now.
Proving the cynics wrong, Mezcaloteca is officially on its way to L.A., and Real Minero, one of the most respected brands in Mexico, arrives this Thursday to Scopa Italian Roots. Petty Cash Taqueria and Broken Spanish have also placed orders for what is likely going to be the city’s most exciting mezcal.
The first varieties available in the U.S. tried to court the Islay Scotch crowd with their over-smoked profiles before being overtaken by some of Mexico’s more popular and storied brands. Still, many of those one-note smoky mezcales from the first generation caused Angelenos to get a narrow view of a broad range of flavors. You could spend night after night at any mezcal bar in Oaxaca and hardly taste any smoke; instead you’d experience earthy, complex, medicinal; and chemical sensations from over 40 varietals. Real Minero and Mezcaloteca will usher in a new era of mezcal here in the U.S.
“This is the age of nuanced mezcal. The specificity of each product is unlike any other category, i.e. still, species, mezcalero, etc. And that’s cool, there’s a lot to grab onto, but will the bottles collect dust on the shelves?” said Steve Livigni, partner in Scopa Italian Roots and the Chestnut Club. “The majority of new products are less reliant on ‘smoky flavor’ and that’s a really good thing.”
There’s much to consider for stunned aficionados who still can’t believe this is actually going down: Will consumers pay the higher price for this exceptional product? Will mezcal producers survive the pressures to keep up with a growing demand? For their part, they can sustain through the many small productions from master mezcaleros, but there are only so many wild agaves to go around.
But never mind that, today is a day to rejoice, so let’s raise a jícara (gourd) and celebrate this one perfect moment, when mezcal royalty, Real Minero, and Mezcaloteca, the guardians of mezcal tradition, showed up on the menu in their most pristine form.