Happy Cinco de Mayo Manual readers! If you’re anything like us, you’re indulging in your favorite tacos and a few margaritas on this festive Monday. If you’re exactly like us, you’re ditching tequila for its smokier cousin mezcal. Distilled from the fermented juice of the core, or piña, of the agave plant, mezcal gets its smoky flavor because the core is roasted over hot rocks rather than cooked in an oven.
To learn a bit more about the spirit, we got in touch with Dario Wolos, the owner of Tacombi in New York City. Born on the beaches of the Yucatan, Tacombi began selling tacos out of a converted VW bus in Playa del Carmen. Now their outpost in NYC’s Nolita neighborhood brings a little taste of Mexican beachside lifestyle to the city. Tacombi recently developed their own house mezcal, so we asked Dario to fill us in one why they chose this spirit and how to drink it today.
Tacombi recently developed their own house mezcal. What inspired this decision? Why did you choose this over other spirits?
When we started Tacombi in Playa del Carmen, mezcal had been gaining popularity amongst our friends for its artisanal qualities. We began finding different producers all over the country that were similar to small vineyards, each with their own traditions. As tequila became more industrialized, you could taste the difference in quality. But with mezcal, you could still find variations with each batch and a funner overall experience sampling varieties from around Mexico.
What should we look for when tasting mezcal? What characteristics make it a high-quality spirit?
Mezcal is an experience you share with a group of friends, sipping it straight until the bottle is finished. There are a number of producers that use different recipes – from the the way the cactus is pollinated to the additional ingredients in fermentation that influence the flavor – you just have to find one that works for you.
We love our spirits paired with a good meal. What types of dishes and flavors go best with mezcal?
I don’t know about pairing it with meals as we have it with every type of food in Mexico. Mezcal is traditionally known to open your appetite and end a meal as both an aperitif and a digestif.
As for cocktails, do you have any good recipes you can share to celebrate Cinco de Mayo?
A Smoked Coke – just mix mezcal with Mexican coke, salt and lime.
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