Two weekends ago, a few of us got together for the ultimate Sunday Funday. While I’m typically content with Bloody Marys and Mimosas, I was excited to step things up a notch with a few of the lovely ladies from our team for an afternoon of mezcal tasting at Austin’s newest hotspot, qui. With the help of qui’s PR & events guru Deana Saukam, bar manager Michael Simon hosted us for a hands-on lesson in all things mezcal. If you’re asking yourself, What is mezcal? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Click through for everything you need to know about Mexico’s finest export, accompanied by gorgeous photos by Wynn Myers.

How gorgeous is the bar? Open six nights a week, it’s the perfect spot to grab pre-dinner drinks.

Deana prepped the space for the ultimate tasting experience. With tasting glasses poured and ready to go, I couldn’t help but notice the smoky aroma of the mezcal in the air as soon as I entered the bar area.

We each received one of these lovely monogrammed Mirth & Co notebooks to jot down our notes from the day — the same notebooks that the qui waitstaff uses when serving.

Though mezcal is traditionally consumed straight, I was delighted to learn that our first sip of the day would be in the form of a citrusy mixed drink. We kicked things off with my favorite cocktail on the Qui menu, The Iron Price (Alipus San Andres Mezcal, dolin rouge, grapefruit, orchard cherry, yuzu tincture and mole bitters) topped with sparkling Pinot Noir. Totally unexpected and completely delicious.

Mezcal is made in Oaxaca, Mexico from the native agave plant. It takes anywhere from 8 to 14 years for an agave plant to be usable for mezcal, which results in maturity and flavor, but often very low yields.

The taste of the mezcal depends greatly on the terroir of each individual agave. Think: grapes are to wine, as agave is to mezcal.

*terroir: the complete natural environment in which a plant is produced

Once the agave plant is usable, it must be hacked out of the ground. The heart of the agave plant (called the piña) is roasted for 3-5 days in a pit oven — this slow cooking gets the most out of the agave’s sugars and gives mezcal its distinctive smoky flavor.

The piña is then ground and crushed in a large grindstone, rinsed with spring water, and left to ferment with water in large barrels or vats. The resulting liquid is then distilled twice to raise the alcohol percentage.

The entire mezcal making process is unadulterated enough to where you’re drinking something that’s completely pure and from the earth.

Michael told us that the Alipus Family of mezcals has been an invaluable addition to the US market. From Oaxaca’s famous mezcal region of Puebla, they focus heavily on craft production in artisanal family distilleries and showcase a high quality product that’s affordable, accessible and perfect for making craft cocktails… and we love the labels!

From left to right: Alipus San Juan Del Rio; Alipus San Andres; Alipus San Baltazar Guelavila

I love the stools that One Eleven Design sourced for the space. These are the Machinist Stool in white from Industry West.

Only 606 bottles of Mezcalero 7th Release were produced. Distinguished by the inclusion of scarce agaves, this line is difficult to collect and transport, distinctively flavored, and rich in character.

Los Nahuales Reposado is made from Agave Espadin (the most widely cultivated & produced agave) and aged in French Oak for six months, giving it its amber color.

*reposado = aged

After each swirl, smell and sip, we discussed the quality, feel and flavors detected. Floral notes! Citrus flavors! Overripe bananas! We learned that there’s no wrong answer.

Mezcal Old Fashioned

  • 2 oz. Alipus San Baltazer Mezcal
  • .75 oz Dill & Coconut Agave
  • .25 oz The Bitter Truth Allspice Liqueur
  • 3 Shake Mole Bitters
  • 1 large-ish slice of grapefruit (for muddling)
  1. combine dill & coconut agave, bitter and grapefruit in a large mixing glass and muddle gently
  2. add remaining ingredients, then fill halfway with ice
  3. stir gently for 20-30 seconds until the glass is cold to the touch
  4. strain into an old-fashioned glass over large ice cubes
  5. garnish with a wide-cut grapefruit peel

Toast like a true Mezcalero by chanting:

 “Arriba! Abajo! Al centro, y pa’dentro!” 

… which translates to (and corresponds with the motions) “Glasses up! Glasses down! Glasses to the center, and glasses in (as you drink)!”

Michael sent each of us home with a vial of dill & coconut agave for mixing up our own Mezcal Old Fashioneds at home.

Special thanks to qui, Deana Saukam, Michael Simon, Wynn Myers, Alipus, Mezcalero & Los Nahulaes!

photography by Wynn Myers

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