In Oaxaca, Mexico they say that mezcal doesn’t make you drunk, it makes you magical. Has anyone ever said the same about Berliner Luft?
Berlin’s drink of choice changes every few years. Look at that guy over there, for example, ordering his gin & tonic. He doesn’t even flinch when the bartender asks which gin he wants. “I remember when it was all mojitos round here” sneers the girl on the stool next to you. She’s been here 4 months longer than you have. “I used to know the place that did the best mojito in the city. It’s gone now.” “Pah!” starts up a slightly older man who doesn’t even smoke or go out anymore… “I remember the caipirinha.”
But I’m still ahead of the curve and I taste what’s on the horizon and it’s magical. Mezcal bars are popping up all over Berlin and mezcal producers like Mezcal Amores are trying hard to create a European base camp here. And I couldn’t be happier.
In case you’re asking yourself ‘what IS mezcal (and when was HE ever ahead of the curve)?’, I visited our local mezcal expert, Fernando Bolaños at Friedrichshain’s Tentacion Craft Beer Cerveceria and Mezcaleria for some answers on Berlin’s newest drink.
“When people ask me, I say that mezcal is like tequila or better, because it’s usually handmade instead of mass produced, and that accounts for many flavours or aromas that tequilas may not have.
“Mezcal is made from agave, a Mexican desert plant. Tequila is too, but they only use blue agave to make tequila. Mezcal can be made using more than 50 varieties of agave. Mezcal is like the father drink, and tequila is a variety. Mezcal is produced in 16 states in Mexico, and ‘mezcal’ can only be made in Mexico.”
“I am from Oaxaca, the captial of mezcal. There we drink it in little kisses,” Fernando explains as he pours me a very small measure of Mezcal Amores, one of the mezcals available in bars in Berlin, into a glass, “one kiss and then another one. With every family meal we might have a little kiss of mezcal just to help our food go down and feel better after eating. We don’t do shots. Well, some people do but it’s not recommended.”
“This mezcal is very nice,” Fernando says of his ‘kiss’ of his Mezcal Amores, “it’s perfect for beginners – it’s smooth, not too strong or smoky and with herbal notes.”
Fernando explains that Mezcal Amores is made using espadin agave, the most common variety, “I think new mezcal drinkers should start with an espadin agave mezcal.” I ask him what else people should look for flavour-wise and he tells me “It’s difficult to say what’s a good or bad one. Some are smoother, heavier, stronger, more earthy… It’s just like beer – it depends on who’s the distiller and their recipe.”
“The main differences in mezcal flavour comes down to the agaves used. Ones from espadin are cultivated, whereas other, wilder agaves have different tastes. This Mezcal Amores is a perfect example of an espadin mezcal. It doesn’t taste like smoke.”
For me, what makes mezcal great is the depth of flavour you can get from drinking it neat without it being overpowering. It’s earthy and plant-like and the flavour changes in your mouth. It’s not a drink you need to be a connoisseur or a big spirit fan to appreciate. Have a kiss and feel magical.
But mezcal also works well in cocktails, something you see more and more of in Berlin. “I’m a bit of a purist – I only drink mezcal straight, without any lemon or anything, because I’m used to it – my grandfather had a distillery so I grew up with it like that. But we have a cocktail called Mezcal Stalk… it’s got just enough mezcal in it that you can feel that it’s stalking you.”
Recipe for Mezcal Stalk:
25 ml lemon juice
25 ml pineapple juice
50 ml Mezcal
Serve in a glass decorated with worm salt (?!)
In Oaxaca they say, “for everything bad, mezcal; for everything good, mezcal too.” With this in mind, head on down to Tentacion, Santa Maria Eastside, La Lucha (when it opens…), Kantine Kohlmann and Wild Things to name just a few, to try out this drink that’s about to make Berlin a little more magical.
Fernando Bolaños hosts regular mezcal tasting sessions at his Tentacion Beerhouse in Friedrichshain. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for all news on upcoming events.
Scharnweberstraße 32, 10247 Berlin
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