Cinco de Mayo at PRINT.

In honor of Cinco de Mayo we are serving up a special flight of mezcals. If you aren’t familiar with mezcal, think of it as tequila’s smokier cousin. Both are made from the agave plant (which by the way, sharp, prickly leaves aside, is not a kind of cactus. The agave plant is a member of the lily family). Mezcal is the name given to all agave-based distilled spirits, meaning that all tequilas are actually mezcals, but not all mezcals are tequila. Tequila is made only from the blue Weber agave plant, and only in the state of Jalisco. Mezcal is made in 7 other regions of Mexico — much of it in the state of Oaxaca — and from as many as 30 different types of agave.

Mezcals tend to be smokier than tequilas. They are typically from smaller distilleries, and made using traditional and old-school methods. While the agave piñas are roasted in huge ovens for tequila, when making mezcal the agave is cooked buried under earthen mounds over pits of hot rocks — giving the mezcals their distinctive smokiness. Like wine, mezcals have a strong sense of terroir or place — each village or region has different nuances in distillation practices, water, and the actual plants. Drink fine mezcals as you would a good peaty scotch – straight, on the rocks or in a nuanced cocktail. Just don’t shoot it — it’s too good.

For our flight we wanted to give a range of flavors, styles and regions.

  • Fidencio Mezcal is located in Santiago Matatlan, Oaxaca, and was founded in 2006 by fourth-generation mezcalero Enrique Jimenez, and located on the 100-year-old Jimenez family distillery Fabrica de Amigo del Mezcal. Fidencio uses 100% estate-grown espadin agave in its mezcals and has developed some unusual equipment and techniques for creating unique expressions of the espadin agave. We are serving two Fidencio Mezcals in this flight.
    • Fidencio Unico is a little unconventional. In a spin on tradition, this mezcal is cooked in a radiant heat oven so it is not as smokey and gives more a of a true flavor of the agave plant.
    • Fidencio Pechuga is a harvest season mezcal is made only for a short time at the end of the summer, and is bottled in limited quantities. For this mezcal, Fidencio’s distiller takes undiluted mezcal clasico and redistills it with a traditional mixture of fruit: quince, apples, bananas, pineapple, and guava. Also a raw, skinned and washed chicken breast is hung in the still; this helps gives the mezcal a particular roundness and richness of favor.
  • Mezcal Unión is produced and distilled in San Baltazar, which is also in the state of Oaxaca. It is made with two different types of agave: Espadín and Cirial. What is also cool about this particular mezcal is that it is produced by a group of families who have been producing mezcal for three generations. This mezcal has the signature smokiness, but also lots of floral and citrus notes, and even a little black pepperiness to it.
  • La Venenosa Raicilla is an agave spirit that fits the historical and distilling definition of mezcal, but is technically produces outside of the official mezcal geographical designation. The category of Raicilla currently has over 70 member distillers, and it is on its way to becoming an official designation of it’s own. We include it in this flight because it’s something we love to serve and it’s nice to see how the same base ingredients can be used to create such a range of flavors. The La Venenosa Costa has a beautiful balance of smoked cedar and pine, flavors with a floral and vegetal quality. It tastes a bit like olives!

Mezcals in 4 wine glasses, plate with orange slices and seasoned salt.