Literate drinking – Drink.Think returns on Oct 16

After a one-year hiatus, I’m delighted to announce that Drink.Think  is back!

If you’ll be in the New York area on Tuesday, Oct. 16, I hope you’ll come out to Casa Mezcal to enjoy a drink and hear an amazing group of writers read from their work about beverages.

In addition, Montelobos Mezcal will be pouring samples of their new mezcal. The product comes to market this month, so you can be among the first to try it. (The regular full bar also will be available.)

Date & Time:  Tuesday, October 16, 2012.  The bar will be open starting at 6pm – the reading starts at 7pm.

Location:  Obra Negra, below Casa Mezcal – 86 Orchard Street, NY, NY

Admission: FREE admission and samples of Montelobos Mezcal. Books will be available for purchase and signing; full cash bar available.

Featured Readers:  Curated by wine and spirits writer Kara Newman, participants include:

  • Jenny Adams, cocktail/spirits writer for Imbibe Magazine
  • Alia Akkam, drinks writer and editor
  • Jennifer Fiedler, Associate Editor, Wine Spectator Magazine
  • Caren Osten Gerszberg and Leah Odze Epstein, editors of Drinking Diaries anthology & blog
  • Michael Neff, bartender/co-owner of Ward III/Rum House, and writer at Serious Eats
  • Peter Joseph, author, Boozy Brunch
  • Rosie Schaap, Drink columnist, New York Times Magazine and author, Drinking With Men
  • Laura Weiss, author, Ice Cream: A Global History

I hope to see you at Casa Mezcal on Oct. 16 – come thirsty!

5 Things I’ve Learned About…Mezcal

Though it’s a wee bit early, the December 1, 2010 issue of Wine Enthusiast magazine is out today, and it includes (among other things) my review column on Mezcal.  You can pick up a copy at the newsstand, or view it in digital format on Zinio. (While you’re browsing, check out “Hot Dram!” — my article on Scotch whiskey trends, on p. 74!)

This is another category that seems custom-made for my chilehead brethren — mezcal has loads of bold, smoky, spicy flavor. Some almost taste like they’re infused with jalapeno peppers, even though they’re not.

Here’s what I learned in the course of researching the mezcal column: 

1.  Worm = bogus. Quality mezcals don’t have turd-like worms at the bottle of the bottle. And two corollaries to that thought:

     a) Worms and scorpions are gross.  A girly reaction? Perhaps. But I can think of no justifiable reason to put insects or invertebrates  in a bottle of anything intended for human consumption.

     b) A knowledgeable friend explained that the worm’s purpose once was not mere shock value, but it to absorb distillates and impurities. “Think of the worm as the grease trap for the bottle,” he said.  If true, that just compounds above-mentioned grossness. 

2. Mezcal is like tequila. Except when it’s not. They’re like cousins, sharing that agave DNA, but they’re not identical twins.

3.  This is one spirit where you really taste what goes into making it. Agave = sweetness (think of the honey-like agave nectar you buy at the health food store) ; Roasting the pinas = smokiness/spiciness; and barrel aging = caramel/vanilla tones.

4.  The expressions of mezcal are really wide-ranging.  I was pleasantly surprised to find out they’re not all rough, tough smoke-bombs. One tasted almost like bourbon; another was delicate, like gin. But all have an underlying agave flavor.

5.  I think mezcal is best in either the silver/joven or the reposado expression. A lot of the anejo mezcals just don’t work – they lose agave character and just become overly strong and overpowered by caramel. Anejo works better with tequila, which has more natural sweetness.

Do you have a favorite mezcal, mezcal cocktail, or mezcal drinkin’ story? Please do share the love in the comment box below. I’m told you can also use that space to tell me I’m full of crapola, if you prefer.

Spicy spirits: Mezcal

PSSST. Hey, you with the Teflon tastebuds. You may be a pro at tossing back tequila, but have you tried smoky, peppery mezcal?

I know a little bit about mezcal, but when Danielle Eddy of DISCUS (who knows everything and everyone in the NY booze universe) invited me to join her at Louis 649 for a mezcal tasting, of course I was in.  It turned out to be a very full evening, beyond just the mezcal.

While I waited for Danielle to extricate herself from rush hour traffic, I ordered an aperitif:  The Evelyn Waugh, made with sugar syrup, orange bitters, sparkling wine, and a gunpowder dash of cayenne pepper. Whoo!

The Evelyn Waugh

Here’s a look at the mezcal tasting. Led by charming distiller Hector Vazquez, we sampled Blanco, Joven, Reposado, and Anejo mezcals (from least to most aged), each a little mellower than the previous sample.

A few, semi-random things we learned:

  • Like tequila, mezcal is produced from the agave plant, but that’s where the similarity ends. Tequila must be made from blue agave; mezcal may be produced from any of several species. Further, while tequila must be produced from plants grown only in a specified area, mezcal may be made anywhere in Mexico. 
  • The name of the brand is changing from Los Danzantes to Los Nahuales.
  • His mezcal is made using spring water purchased from a cooperative of women who live in the mountains.
  • Mezcal is made from fermented yeast, and  “we play classical music to the yeast.” Nice.


After the tasting concluded, Mark Maurice of Edward III came over to say hello; he’s using the Tuthilltown facilities upstate to make New York’s first local Absinthe! Although he kindly offered me a sample, unfortunately by then my palate was too numb to try.

After that, we headed over to Madame Geneva for the second night of the Cocktail All-Stars; Danielle (I told you, she knows everyone!) already had us both on “the list” and despite the mob scene we breezed right in, just in time to try the Delhi Daisy, made with a hit of curry powder, and some steamed pork-belly buns.  I love the look of the little glass tea-pots full of goldfish, although I hope the fish aren’t unhappy in that tiny space.

The Delhi Daisy: still-life with goldfish

P.S.  Hopefully these photos are improving. For starters, I’ve traded up to using a proper digital camera, which has a flash, vs. my cell phone camera.