Recently I had dinner had my favorite Vienna restaurant, Alegria, and for the first time, skipped the tequila and sampled some Mezcal. This spirit is the original Mexican spirit, first distilled by the conquistadors after they ran out of rum. They noticed that the indigenous population drinking pulque, a fermented beverage from the maguey agave plant. Distillation soon commenced and today it is distilled throughout Mexico - although its epicenter is Oaxaca.
In the past, I had avoided mezcal primarily because I had only tasted lower end versions (with the worm) which didn't compare favorably to Mezcal's tequila offspring. No longer - particularly after a round of Del Maguey (ma–gay) Minero Single Village Santa Catarina Minas Mezcal ($70). This is as tasty as any fine 100% blue agave Tequila, with a mango nose and flavor followed by an enticing shot of motor oil - think rich and smooth. This mezcal is completely organic, not because they strive to reach that certification, but because that's how they've been producing the spirit for centuries. This particularly brand comes from the village of Santa Catarina Minas and palenqueros, Florencio Carlos Sarmiento and his
sons Florencio Carlos Vasquez and Luis Carlos Vasquez. They pound the roasted agave by hand and then distill the fermented pulp in a clay still with bamboo tubing rather than a copper
still and tubing. Now that's cool. And major kudos to Del Maguey for singling out individual family palenqueros in small villages in every mezcal in their collection. I'll keep looking for the green bottle.