Whether, you’re neck deep in opinions about NOM legislation or you’re just learning the difference between tequila and mezcal, you should set aside a few days next week. Across the globe, thousands will sip and celebrate their favorite agave distillate; Mezcal Week is slated for November 5-12.
Over 50 mezcal events of every sort will be staged during the seven days. “We have everything from a cool gallery opening with a mezcal tasting that exemplifies the quirky creativity of Mezcal Week to paired dinners from top chefs to a great tasting in Mexico City,” said co-founder Max Garrone. “There are happenings in Australia, England, Mexico, and of course, in the States—San Francisco, Chicago, Denver, Salt Lake City, New York—with more popping up every day.”
Unlike many traditional spirits events, Mezcal Week works with an open, grassroots format. Bars, brands, and individuals are all welcome to dream up their own event, creativity encouraged, and add it to the global fest.
For example, in Dorset, England, Bournemouth’s Ojo Rojo will be hosting a full week of events. The festivities begin with a masterclass focused on the Derrumbes range, continue with free tastings for several nights, and conclude with an industry party. In Portland, Oregon, Xico is pairing food with mezcal, including an excellent mussel dish. Melbourne, Australia created Agave Trail of the local mezcalerias; after sampling Alipus based cocktails, patrons can have specially created “mezcal passports” stamped for a chance at prizes.
Garrone is particularly excited about a collaboration with Chicago’s iconic Dark Matter Coffee. “The guys behind Dark Matter have been really into mezcal for a while so they have a variety of projects in the works with Lou Bank, a local Chicagoan who is spreading the gospel of mezcal, to distill batches of mezcal with coffee beans and vice versa,” he told Neat Pour. “And proceeds go to a great cause.”
Garrone’s personal mezcal love story began like many others. He and his wife Davina discovered the delicious agave distillate while vacationing in Mexico where they met Susan Coss who was already well down the road to mezcal obsession. After drinking mezcal for a night the three of them visited distilleries and spent the rest of the vacation focused on mezcal. They fell in love with the terroir, agriculture, people, and culture that form each sip of mezcal and wanted to share this love. Then, it got interesting: Most mezcal devotees merely smuggle back a couple bottles and share with their friends. Garrone and Coss wanted to share their love for mezcal on a much larger scale.
The duo morphed into mezcal missionaries. “Our goal is to be like, ‘Come here, Try this out,’” Garrone explained. “Our goal is to promote mezcal. We want to present Mezcal in all of its awesome varieties. It’s great straight, in cocktails, with food, and in social situations.”
Coss and Garrone started small, creating a list of places where the curious could drink quality mezcal in their own town. Next, came a website, Mezcalistas. Then, they began organizing tastings. At first they were small and local to the pair’s Bay Area base. Within in a few years, the tastings expanded across the U.S. with guests driving hundreds of miles to savor the rare spirit. And, in time, that, too, was not enough—Mezcal Week was born.
Today, Mezcal Week is huge, but don’t mistake the size as a victory lap for the spirit or for Garrone. The organizer stressed that despite (and perhaps because of) the growth, many hurdles remain with sustainability at the top of the list. “The key fact of anything made with agave is that the plant take at least five years to mature and then you have to kill it and start over again,” Garrone elaborated. “It’s very long, very risky, very climate dependent. If you’re not replanting; if you’re polluting; or if there are issues like erosion or deforestation, you could upset a very difficult balance.” While many producers labor double time to practice sustainability, many challenges remain as evidenced by agave’s current record high prices.
Pricing also leads into a second concern for Garrone. “Mezcal must be economically sustainable also. People working in the industry must make enough to sustain themselves and their families.”
Despite the obstacles, the mezcal maven is optimistic about creating a bright future through continued, gradual global growth. “People love the category and are trying to figure out how to support it. We’re trying to create a vehicle for that, said Garrone. “It means things culturally, but also its a business. People in Oaxaca are starting to understand how the business works in the States a little better. and over here, we’re starting to understand their culture and how mezcal is made a little better. Hopefully, we can help bring those together.”
Correction: This piece originally identified Susan Coss as Garrone’s wife. In fact, Coss is Garrone’s partner in Mezcalistas while his wife is Davina Baum.