Learn to taste Mezcal like a Pro!
Mezcalito Bar at El Dorado Seaside Resort, Riviera Maya offers a one-of-a-kind experience
Ever heard of mezcal tasting? No, I am not spelling wine wrong.
There’s a popular saying in Spanish that goes like this, “Para todo mal, mezcal. Para todo bien, también.”
Its loose translation means “For everything bad, mezcal. For everything good, the same.” It doesn’t quite sound as good without the rhyme, but you get the picture.
Mexico´s Latest Hipster Trend
Mezcal is Mexico’s newest hipster trend. Consequently, mezcalerias are popping up all over Mexican tourism resort areas. Its growing popularity got me wondering: What the heck is mezcal and where can I try it?
I decided to venture over to Mezcalito Bar at El Dorado Seaside Suites to attend their weekly tasting experience hosted by on-site National Association of Sommeliers expert, (ONSOM) Sergio Alberto Ramos.
ONSUM Sommelier Sergio Alberto Ramos gives his weekly masterclass at El Dorado Seaside Resort´s Mezcalito Bar
The first thing you´ll notice as you walk into Mezcalito is a giant humor wall. Witty phrases forewarn you about the mysterious properties of mezcal.
Moreover, you will quickly discover that Mezcalito is the chiquest place in the Riviera Maya to enjoy this popular spirit. Mezcalito`s friendly bartenders love sharing their knowledge of this time honored licqour. They serve it in stylish clay copitas. And to bring out the flavor, they set out garnishes like orange slices, pineapple, pepitos and pimento seeds.
“Before we opened Mezcalito Bar 3 years ago, mezcal was sort of an unknown spirit,” Sommelier Sergio Alberto Ramos explained. “Now, our returning guests flock here because they are becoming well versed with the spirit. Nowadays, many connoisseurs opt for it as their preferred weapon of choice in their cocktails over other licquors. “I love that they take our tradition back home with them. As a result, mezcalerias are springing up all over the world, from New York to Sydney.
What is Mezcal?
Mezcal is an agave-based liquor, but it’s not tequila. But tequila is a type of a mezcal. Confused? It’s OK, you’re not the only one.
“When people talk about mezcal, their most common association is that it’s tequila. This is a correct assumption, but it’s more complex than that,” says Sommelier Ramos.
Tequila can only be made from agave tequilana a.k.a. blue agave, and can only be made in the state of Jalisco in Mexico. Whereas mezcal can be produced from any type of agave anywhere. About 85 percent is produced in Oaxaca.
Sommelier Ramos says that mezcal differs from tequila because they cook it in underground pits with agaves. They can be anywhere from 8 to 30 years mature. Each species of agave gives variations in the final taste of the product depending on environmental factors.
The best mezcal is anywhere from 8 to 30 years mature
“Mezcal has a rich past, predating modern tequila by a significant amount of time. I refer to it as tequila’s cooler, older sister.”
You’re hearing about its arrival on the drinking scene now because of its popularity with younger drinkers: Sales went from 50,000 cases sold in 2009 to 360,000 cases in 2017, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.
How Should You Taste Mezcal?
The process is very similar to wine tasting. Every Friday at 5pm, El Dorado Seaside´s guests clamor to get a table at Mezcalito and savor this showcase event.
“We do like the comparison with wine as there are a lot of similarities between the two,” says Ramos. “The flavor comes from the type of agave, climate, terrain and its distillation process.”
Moreover, Ramos advises that before you dive head first into a full tasting, maybe try it out in a cocktail and see if you like it first. Then go ahead and try two or three different agave varieties with a meal or bar snack.
Copitas or veladoras are ways you can best enjoy its potency.
A copita is a dinky clay cup and a veladora is a little glass candle holder that works as a cup. Whichever way you serve it, the most important thing is to enjoy the process.
“These aren’t shots to take and suck the burn away with lime and salt. Treat it like wine, smell from the veladora or the copita and let your palate adjust to the higher proof. Then you’ll be able to open up to all the notes and aromas and body these varietals offer.”
Through sampling, you’ll find there are a wide variety of flavors depending on how they are made and which type of agave is used. Surprisingly, some varietals have a smoky taste, while others have hints of fruit or nuts.
“Most importantly, take the time to discover each note. And if you’re sampling several varietals, sit down to really enjoy the ambiance. Besides that, take 15 minutes with that copito, enjoy it with friends and talk about it. Have a communal experience with it.”
So that´s exactly what I did. My newfound tasting buddy Chris Rooney from Chicago concurs that “this is a highly educative tasting. Being set in an informal ambience, you can ask questions and relax with the experience! Sommelier Sergio doesn´t wear a bow tie, but he is undeniably the ‘Rhodes Scholar’ of Mezcal, says Rooney.”
Although mezcal is known for being smoky, Sommelier Ramos does a great job in steering tasters away from that. Instead he introduces them to the many other different elements it has to offer.
“It’s more than just smoky, there are so many different expressive notes; there’s fruit and floral, there’s grassy, there’s band-aid, rubber, gasoline or even tobacco,” says Ramos.
Hitting those magical high notes
By journey´s end, you’ll agree with my assessment. The magic of turning cactus into mezcal is nothing short of a miracle.
So the next time you’re visiting the Riviera Maya, stop by Bar Mezcalito at El Dorado Seaside Suites for an unforgettable experience.