Sunday, July 1, 2012

Slow Sippin': Mezcal Tasting with the Mexican Cultural Institute

Ambassador Sarukhan and Ron Cooper
The Mexican Cultural Institute hosted an educational Mezcal tasting that opened my eyes to another world of flavor from south of the border. Hosted by the Ambassador of Mexico Arturo Sarukhan, the lecture provided by Ron Cooper, Founder of Del Maguey, Single Village Mezcal, was very informative and interesting about the production of the spirit and its history.  Cooper is engaging and passionate not only about the flavor of Mezcal but also its origins and connections to the Mexican people.

Roasted agave
Mezcal is an agave based spirit, like tequila, however the production process is completely different and  the plants are grown in the Mexican state of Oaxaca.  

Mezcal Old Fashioned
The agave is roasted and fermented and then  aged in an oak barrel. Cooper explained how Mezcal should be savored as a sipper to enjoy its smokey, earthy flavors and warming characteristics. We were treated to five different mezcals: Del Maguey Chichicapa, Mezcal Yuu Baal, Don Fili, Del Maguey Tobala, and Mezcal Sansekan.  We also tasted agave in its raw form which I found to be naturally sweet, smokey and reminded me of a nectar.   The fibrous, pulpy texture complimented its stickiness.  My favorite taste was the Tobala, which  had a fruity smell, flavors of cinnamon and spice and a smooth finish.  I could feel the warmth and yet still taste the smokey and earthy flavors that came from the shade grown wild mountain Maguey (agave) plant. 

After the tasting portion, guests were treated to Mezcal cocktails and an amazing spread of appetizers.  The three cocktails were creative and enhanced the flavors of the Mezcals.  David Fritzler of Tryst created a Mezcal Old Fashion served on the rocks with Mezcal Vida agave syrup, Amargo Chuncho Peruvian Bitters and a twist of lemon; Apoala Sour with Mezcal Los Javis, grapefruit juice, lime juice, honey shaken and served in a chile-salt rimmed glass; and the Moca-Mezc-urrado with Mezcal Sinai, champurrado, (a liquid of brewed masa, piloncillo sugar, chocolate, cinnamon, vanilla and anise) coffee swirled and served over ice.  I loved the Apoala Sour, the fruity flavors balanced the warming qualities of the Mezcal which complimented the chili-salt providing a salty-sweet combination.

Apoala Sour
The appetizers reflected traditional Mexican cuisine: Steak Ajillo, a garlic-marinated, fire-charred flank steak with a spiced red pepper pesto; Chuletitas de Cordero, pistachio crusted lamb lollipops served with an amazing green peppercorn sauce, which I couldn't get enough of; Achiote Chicken Tamales in steamed corn husks; Whitefish Ceviche, marinated in lemon and jalape├▒o, tomatoes and onions.  The guacamole and pico were fresh and served with spiced house made tortilla chips.

Chuletitas de Cordero (pistachio crusted lamb lollipops)
This experience really taught me a lot about Mezcal and its unique place in the spirits world.  I appreciated the exposure to Mexican culinary culture and learned a lot about the sustainability efforts of Del Maguey.  The event was fantastic and I can't wait for the next one at the Mexican Cultural Institute.

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