Beyond Mezcal: Distilled and Fermented in Mexico

Dip into the back bar, behind-the-counter and unlabelled jugs of fermented and distilled goodies on your next visit to Mexico or the southern U.S.

A flight of blanco or unaged agave spirits at Nómada in San José del Cabo. In a flight they can look benign—just several glasses of colourless liquid—but be prepared for weird flavours, aromas and textures. Charlene Rooke photo

Like many Western Canadians, I’ve been to Mexico too many times to count—but typically on holidays, not at work as a drinks writer and educator. On my latest trip, I was determined to go beyond margaritas, and way beyond even some of the excellent agave spirits we’re now able to purchase in Canada. Here’s what I found.

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Choose A Woman-Made, Woman-Led Spirit Day

Celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8 by buying or drinking a woman-made spirit, such as these global brands that have women master blenders, distillers and more.

At Ron Zapaca in Guatemala, master blender Lorena Vasquez is credited for pioneering the a “solera” aging method in rum. Photo courtesy of Ron Zacapa
Supplied photo

Though countless women contribute to the vibrant local, national and international distilling industry, for International Women’s Day each year we give a nod to some of the trailblazers in top production, management and ownership positions at distilleries.

For a fresh perspective on the hidden history of women in spirits and cocktail, we highly recommend the recently released book Girly Drinks: A World History of Women and Alcohol by Mallory O’Meara.

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Top 10 cocktail trends for 2022

Our experts weigh in on what—and how—you will be drinking this winter

The Espresso Martini is the retro drink we’re craving right now.
Getty Images photos

What’s new? What’s next? In some ways, the pandemic has changed everything about how we drink. In others, it’s only accelerated trends that were already in the works. We checked in with experts both local and global, and here’s what they had to say about the way we’re drinking now and in the months to come.

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Citrus and smoke

The Alchemist tasting panel discusses their favourite tequila and mezcal

Blue Weber agave plants grow in Jalisco, Mexico. Also known as agave azul, the plant takes up to a decade to reach maturity, and contributes citrus and pepper notes to the tequila.Getty Images photo

For years, we’ve been reading that tequila is about to become the “it” spirit. This year, it seems, it’s finally happened. Mind you, some of us have been enjoying this Mexican agave-based spirit, along with its smoky cousin mezcal, all along. Agave spirits have increasingly become luxury products savoured by connoisseurs, which may surprise those who’ve only had a disastrous brush with cheap mixto and are still feeling the hangover. A good tequila is made from 100 per cent farmed blue agave, while mezcal can be made from any number of wild agaves. Mezcal is also typically enjoyed unaged, while tequila can be unaged (also known as plata or silver), “rested” in oak for up to a year (reposado) or aged (añejo or extra añejo). Agave spirits are complex, fascinating and delicious, so we asked our tasting panel to share their favourite and what cocktail they’d make with it. This issue, our team comprises bartenders Sabrine Dhaliwal, Adam Domet, Robyn Gray, Jay Jones, Trevor Kallies, Jeff Savage and Kaitlyn Stewart. ¡Salud!

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Margarita

Margarita. Getty Images photo

The classic, ideal for sipping all summer long, is Trevor Kallies’ suggested cocktail.

• 1.5 oz Altos Silver Tequila

• 0.5 oz Curacao, Triple Sec or Cointreau

• 1 oz fresh lime juice

• 1 tsp simple syrup (1:1)

• Garnish: salted rim

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Division Bell

Division Bell. Getty Images photo

Robyn Gray recommends this contemporary classic with a subtle smoky note.

• 1 oz Los Siete Misterios Mezcal Doba-Yej

• 1 oz Aperol

• 1 oz maraschino liqueur

• 1 oz lemon juice

• Garnish: grapefruit zest

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Paloma

Paloma. Getty images photo

Sabrine Dhaliwal offers her take on the easy-drinking Mexican classic.

• 2 oz Volcan de mi Tierra Blanco

• 1.5 oz grapefruit juice

• 0.75 oz lime juice

• 0.75 oz agave nectar

• Soda water

• Garnish: salted rim, grapefruit half-moon.

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Fever-Tree Paloma

Fever-Tree Paloma. Supplied photo

Mexico’s favourite cocktail, the refreshing Paloma, is also the easiest to make.

• ¼ tequila (we suggest a 100% agave, like Patrón)

• ¾ Fever-Tree Sparkling Pink Grapefruit

• Garnish: grapefruit wedge

• Optional: salt rim

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La Joya

La Joya. Matthew Benevoli photo

Matthew Benevoli’s La Joya uses his homemade ginger bug.

• 1.25 oz blanco tequila

• 0.5 oz elderflower liqueur

• 0.75 oz ginger bug

• 1 oz orange juice (preferably fresh-pressed)

• 0.25 oz lemon juice

• Garnish: lemon twist, orange slice or vibrant flower

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In the mix

Photo courtesy of Volcan

When it’s hot out, nothing tastes better than a bright, citrusy Margarita. But who has the energy to squeeze all those limes? Luckily for the lazy among us, Volcán De Mi Tierra Tequila has come to the rescue with a new made-in-Canada Margarita pre-mix designed to perfectly complement the tequila’s citrus, cherry and white pepper flavours.

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