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The Mezcalerías of Oaxaca

Originally published in www.latinkitchen.com on June 5, 2013

The city of Oaxaca is one of many colors, busy streets, and majestic horizons. It is known for its architecture, its art, and of course, its wonderful cuisine in which renowned Oaxacan chefs have undertaken the mission of creating exquisite dishes with traditional and local elements. But most recently, Oaxaca has become synonymous with mezcal, a unique, smoky spirit that has emerged from under the ashes and has become the talk of the town.

Being Oaxaca the main producer of mezcal in Mexico, it is only fitting to stop at one of Oaxaca’s many mezcal establishments, which are called mezcalerías, on your next visit. The following are on our must-list, and we strongly suggest that you add them to yours.

Ulises Torrentera at In Situ

In Situ Mezcalería

Anyone who ventures into the world of mezcal knows about Ulises Torrentera. Maybe they have run into one of his publications, like Mezcalaria or the Breve Guía del Mezcal (A Brief Guide to Mezcal), or maybe they have shared a drink with the legend, himself.

If you are ever in Oaxaca in search of a mezcal adventure, you can find Torrentera at In Situ Mezcalería where, in addition to learning more about the culture of mezcal, you can enjoy a tasting from a collection of over 100 different kinds of mezcales cured by Torrentera himself, a unique writer and eternal mezcal romantic of Oaxaca.

El Cortijo Mezcalería

Juan Carlos and Raul Méndez Zamora, fifth generation mezcaleros from Santiago Matatlán have taken over the reins of one of the oldest mezcal legacies in Oaxaca: Mezcal El Cortijo. Their determination and passion to restore the credibility and quality of the mezcales of Santiago Matatlán have led them to create innovative ways to market the El Cortijo brand, including creating alliances with local artists like Eduardo Sariento, Maximino Javier and Amador Montes. Their most recent endeavor is El Cortijo La Mezcalería.

Located in the heart of the Centro Histórico this cozy mezcalería is designed as a space where you can try over 10 different mezcales from El Cortijo and learn about mezcal culture straight from the source. From Joven with Gusano to the special edition Extra Añejo, Juan Carlos or Raul are almost always there to guide you through an extensive and most enjoyable tasting.

Mezcalería Los Amantes

Los Amantes

Art and mezcal have always gone hand in hand in Oaxaca. There is not a writer, painter, or musician in Oaxaca who hasn’t had an affair with the spirit of mezcal. When you walk the green cobbled streets of the city at night and find yourself inside Los Amantes (right), you will see the intersection of art, tradition and mezcal of which I’m speaking. Beautifully decorated by Oaxacan painter Guillermo Olguín, Los Amantes serves only the finest traditional mezcales brought straight from the Sierra and served to you out of vintage green glass damajuanas.

But mezcal is not the only main attraction at Los Amantes. A meeting with mezcal expert Leon Lory, is a must, and usually takes place within this iconic mezcaleria. Lory’s energy and passion for the production of mezcal is one of the things that makes this industry great, for mezcal is not just about what you’re drinking, but also about the enigmatic people who are behind it and bring the spirit to life.

Mezcaloteca

Once you’ve had fun and enjoyed yourself sipping on mezcal and you want to get down to business side of things, Mezcaloteca is the place to be. Just like being inside of a library, Mezcaloteca houses an extensive collection of mezcals from different regions and varietals, from Cenizo mezcales of Durango to different types of Karwinskiis from all over Oaxaca. But you will never find a worm inside this mezcalería. Only traditional mezcals that are over 45% alcohol by volume and unaged are served here.

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