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I ordered a shot of mezcal to start. The server was uncomfortable telling me that there was only one shot left in the bottle, and that I would likely end up with the worm, so he sent the manager over to do it. I said I was fine with the worm (show no weakness!), and poured the little guy down my gullet.

Afterwards, the owner himself (who in my head I've named "Don Picante" - real name: Guillermo Manoatl, which is basically the same thing) came over to meet the man who drank the worm. He gave me the bottle to take home. I guess I didn't realize it was a big deal. It actually turns out that they have something like eighty different types of tequila, and that the owner hosts a $10 tequila class on Thursdays. I'll probably go at some point and report back, but I was made a little wary when he described mezcal as a cheaper, lower form of tequila when it fact it's a completely different drink with its own unique and smokey character.

Depending upon the brand Mezcal you had, he was probably correct.....Gusano Rojo is the swill mezcal of Mexico and sold not only at the airports and gas stations :)......The lore of the worm being good luck or medicinal was a genius marketing ploy aimed solely at Americans to get them to buy this fuel. All Mezcals are tequilas, but not all tequilas are Mezcals.... Mezcal is made from a different speciaes of the Maguey and the Pina (heart) is roasted rather than steamed to impart that smokey flavor. No self respected Mezcal maker uses a worm ;)

I enjoy stoppiong by there every time I shoot at Blue Ridge Arsenal

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The lore of the worm being good luck or medicinal was a genius marketing ploy aimed solely at Americans to get them to buy this fuel.

I know, which was why I was disappointed to see, as a bare footnote on an otherwise amazing tequila list, only two mezcals: Monte Alban and one other on the same tier (the name is slipping my mind).

If there's smoke in it, I will eat it, drink it, smoke it, shoot it, breathe it...

I bet you could come up with some really great artisinal mezcal.

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I know, which was why I was disappointed to see, as a bare footnote on an otherwise amazing tequila list, only two mezcals: Monte Alban and one other on the same tier (the name is slipping my mind).

If there's smoke in it, I will eat it, drink it, smoke it, shoot it, breathe it...

I bet you could come up with some really great artisinal mezcal.

You can check some out here.

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Speaking of mezcal, you should check out Bobby Huegel's Twitter feed on agave spirits producers rallying against NOM 186 in Mexico:

https://twitter.com/...#!/Bobby_Heugel

One that got me:

It really is magical to watch all of these folks, who have traveled from all over Mex, come together to protect one another against #NOM186

Earlier he'd pointed out many of these producers had never met each other before...

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You can check some out here.

Mmmmm....another reason to love DC. I miss Oyamel. I also remember the great mezcal based cocktails at Sidebar.

So does anyone have cocktail recipes for mezcal based drinks they could share? I found some interesting ones at the Imbibe website but I'd rather get recommendations from the people on this board.

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1.5 ounces Mezcal, 1.5 ounces Dolin blanc (full disclosure blah blah blah), 2 dashes celery bitters (or 10 drops Bittermens "Orchard Street" Celery Shrub). Stir with ice, strain, and slap some sort of citrus peel on it if you're feeling fancy.

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So does anyone have cocktail recipes for mezcal based drinks they could share?

IMHO, a lot of mezcal recipes will depend on the style of mezcal that you're using. For some, you can just sub them in for tequila to give what I find is usually a bit more texture, in terms of flavor, of a "standard" tequila drink.

Others sub better for Scotch, due to their smoky nature.

Mostly I sip them on their own - like the crema de mezcal, which has 10% agave syrup added to it - it makes a delightful post-cigar sipper, especially after a big, nicotine-heavy cigar.

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Thanks, Jake. I knew you'd come through for me. Also good to know that I can try to swap tequila and mezcal. I love the smokey flavour in drinks.

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I like using mezcal subbed in for gin in a variation on the Negroni, although I've found that I prefer it with a bit higher percentage of mezcal than the typical 1:1:1 ratio.

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everyone probably know but i just found out that tequilla is a specific kind of mezcal. Tequilla is mezcal made from blue aguve. Hope i got that right?

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Mezcal? The worm? I "did" the worm for my 40th birthday...years ago. Serious. It was a production; I also sincerely believe that there is a reason that you have to get to the bottom of the bottle before encountering the worm.

Anyway, my date the night of my doing the worm married another man. Years ago.

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everyone probably know but i just found out that tequilla is a specific kind of mezcal. Tequilla is mezcal made from blue aguve. Hope i got that right?

Tequila is made in Jalisco from (mostly) Weber blue agave. Mezcal is made in Oaxaca from a variety of agaves. Neither is a subset of the other. Tequila tends to be made in a cleaner style (agave steamed, some or all column-stilled), while Mezcal tends to be funkier (agave roasted, often with hot stones, mostly pot-stilled).

Mezcal? The worm? I "did" the worm for my 40th birthday...years ago. Serious. It was a production; I also sincerely believe that there is a reason that you have to get to the bottom of the bottle before encountering the worm.

Much mezcal is serious stuff these days, with complexity (and price) on the level of good Islay malt whiskeys. More mixable than Islay malts, though, particularly with vermouths, French herbal liqueurs, and softer amari.

I sincerely believe you have to get to the bottom of the bottle (over many days) to discover its versatility and learn its many facets.

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Not to disparage any particular brands, but for me, Mezcal begins with Del Maguey and Ilegal. I'm sure that there are many other nice ones (heck, Del Maguey is the SOURCE for some other labels...) but really, you can cover all bases and be completely agave-spirit-satisfied with these two brands. That doesn't mean that I'm not keen to try the others out there, but Del Maguey and Ilegal are so well-made that one doesn't really have to look any further to get their Mezcal jones tended to. The Del Maguey line runs from around $31 to over $200, with several in between. If you ever get to attend a comprehensive tasting of their entire lineup, it is a fascinating exploration into just how terroir and different agave strains affect the spirit. They are like fingers on the same hand; similar, yet different, but all useful :)

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It may just be me, but I find mezcal, in my albeit limited exposure (tried it mainly in cocktails maybe 4 or 5 times), way too smoky for my palate - almost overpowering in most cases. OF course, my tastes may change.

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On 2/12/2017 at 3:56 PM, Pool Boy said:

It may just be me, but I find mezcal, in my albeit limited exposure (tried it mainly in cocktails maybe 4 or 5 times), way too smoky for my palate - almost overpowering in most cases. OF course, my tastes may change.

Same here.  I have grown to enjoy it, though, when used in small quantities, like the Oaxaca Old Fashioned: http://imbibemagazine.com/oaxaca-old-fashioned-recipe/

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On 2/12/2017 at 3:56 PM, Pool Boy said:

It may just be me, but I find mezcal, in my albeit limited exposure (tried it mainly in cocktails maybe 4 or 5 times), way too smoky for my palate - almost overpowering in most cases. OF course, my tastes may change.

20 minutes ago, Law Taco said:

Same here.  I have grown to enjoy it, though, when used in small quantities, like the Oaxaca Old Fashioned: http://imbibemagazine.com/oaxaca-old-fashioned-recipe/

+1. I think it may be like peaty Scotch, and I just haven't developed a palate for it. I keep hearing bartenders - really, really knowledgeable bartenders - say how terrific Mezcal can be, but I've honestly never had one that I loved. (Even the most experienced diners and drinkers have holes in their skill set - Mezcal is something more like a chasm in mine.)

You know, I used to be like this with Eau de Vie, but it's kind of grown on me over the decades. I can't say I "love" it; but I can drink it and enjoy it after a meal.

Thing is, though, I know that I'll *never* like prominently oaked wines; nor 16% Aussie Shiraz, so ... maybe Mezcal just isn't in my future.

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Mezcal is, IMHO, an incredible tradition whose image has been crippled for decades by the misunderstandings of just plain cultural distance.  It is a wild thing, made in small batches in remote locations often using pre-industrial equipment, and anchored in American minds by inappropriate references to other more commercially-mature agave spirits.  Random mezcal is a game of low-proof Russian roulette.  Well-selected mezcal is everything you felt when you first discovered a world of single malts after growing up with blended Scotch, except that the Technicolor of mezcal and its esters, drawn from dozens of species of agave with completely different growth and maturation habits, makes single malt seem sepia-toned by comparison.  As with Scotch, it isn't all super smoky...but unlike Scotch, the geographical traditions aren't as easy to suss out.  You can't just pick "Speyside instead of Islay" with mezcal.

And yet right now, thanks to growing awareness of its desirability, traditional mezcal is under threat of house-style industrialization by large commercial interests, mainly the large tequila conglomerates.  And worse, as measures have been introduced to use government regulation to hijack the name and prohibit its traditional use.

This is the brief golden age of mezcal, its availability here on the rise, and before it's completely ruined.  This is the moment American whiskey enthusiasts enjoyed 12-15 years ago before Wall Street moved in.  I probably would have missed it too, if not for our own Jake Parrott.

When you order mezcal at a bar, ask to read the label, and do read it closely.  Note the style, note the name of the mezcalero, note the village where it was made, note the agave(s) used, note the method and materials of distillation, note the dates.  Espita's flights are a good starting point, if expensive.  Maybe like gubeen, you will decide that you have a fondness for youthful joven mezcals made from the madre cuixe agave.  But to capture the moment, you're probably going to have to go to Oaxaca, to a bar like In Situ, where you have a chance of buying a bottle from the exact same small batch that you tasted.  No other will taste exactly the same.

IMHO.

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