Photograph courtesy Bacanora Cielo Rojo
While dining at chef Joseph Centeno’s Bar Amá the other night, I came across several menu curiosities, like $10 bean tostadas and $10 queso, but the most unusual offering was a section for two little-known Mexican spirits: bacanora and sotol.
Bacanora is a type of mezcal made from the wild Yaquiano agaves that grow in the northern Mexican state of Sonora. Sotol is the drink of the state of Chihuahua, distilled from a different kind of agave known as the Desert Spoon. Like mezcal—which comes to us from the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca—bacanora and sotol have a smoky flavor profile that comes from pit roasting the agave.
Centeno offers the one sotol available here in the U.S.: Hacienda de Chihuahua. And while I was happy to see it on the menu, I was really excited to find Bacanora Cielo Rojo (“red sky”) on the line-up as well. I’d discovered Cielo Rojo back in 2010 at the Expo Tequila in Tijuana and have had it on my shelf along with other bacanoras ever since. Cielo Rojo’s un-aged bacanora blanco has an intense, rounded flavor of lightly sweet cooked agave, and the smoke isn’t overpowering. With a pure, balanced flavor that is superior to any mezcal in town, Cielo Rojo is worth the trip to Bar Amá alone.
Bar Amá, 118 W 4th St., Los Angeles, Bar-Ama.com
You can also find 750mL bottles of Bacanora Cielo Rojo ($43) and Sotol Hacienda de Chihuahua ($30 for the reposado, $35 for the añejo) at K&L Wine Merchants, 1400 Vine St., Hollywood, 323-464-9463.