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July 2017

[caption id="attachment_6597" align="alignleft" width="240"] The Gracias a Dios lineup[/caption] I have to hand it to the guys at Gracias a Dios (GAD) or www.thankgad.com - that is one clever URL for the brand. I had a chance to visit their palenque - a two birds with one stone event so I could see my friend Norma and visit the palenque. She lives in Teotitlan and puts on some pretty incredible textile and culture tours. We set up a time to meet at the GAD palenque and get a special tour and tasting with Maestro Mezcalero Oscar Hernandez Santiago. Of course I got lost because my GPS disconnected and the directions sent us off in the complete opposite direction in Matatlan. Note to travelers - google maps is great and amazing, except of course when you have no phone reception which crazily enough, I didn't in Matatlan. The palenque is on the edge of town as you head south on 190. It is a beautiful piece of property and will eventually be a centerpiece of the new style of mezcal travels in Oaxaca - a bread and breakfast on palenque property. It is now available to book through Airbnb.

I’m just back from Tales of the Cocktail 2017 and there’s no rest for the weary, or is it guilty?, so I’m going to jump into this quick recap of the trip and then get back to our regularly scheduled business.

Agave love

The best thing about Tales is that it draws in everyone from the agave world, the floating culture of agave spirits assembles there, so it was fantastic to see all the familiar faces and many new, all united by a single passion. The mezcal world is very collegial: Sure, we’re all working and explicitly this is an educational opportunity, but it’s also incredibly social. I was thrilled to meet lots of people who made the trip to Tales who don’t even work in the industry, they just came because they are obsessed with agave spirits and wanted to know more. We really are part of a community.

[caption id="attachment_6468" align="aligncenter" width="939"] Longflint's bottled mezcal paloma[/caption] I recently had the pleasure of chatting with James Law who is one of the forces behind Longflint beverages which are low ABV bottled cocktails. By low ABV, I mean low, to date their entire product line is under 6% ABV so these are the definition of quaffable or, to use another alcohol analogy, they’re session cocktails.

Sadly, the title isn't click bait, it's true, I did go to the annual Feria del Mezcal in Oaxaca and drank some delicious beer. Mezcal was well represented by some strong brands but the scene was decidedly mixed. There were the usual bottles of cremas and murky yellow bottles labeled as mezcal, and at night, it definitely turned into the biggest party in town.

[caption id="attachment_6424" align="aligncenter" width="720"] The Tres Mezquites Palenque[/caption] Over my years of visiting Oaxaca, Asis Cortes and I have never managed to be here at the same time. This trip is no different, but luckily, I was finally able to get out and visit a few of the palenques they work with. Special thanks to Puro Burro and Zack Safron who used to be a San Francisco based bartender. He has since made the leap to Oaxaca which is quite a trend with bartenders. Zach occupies a fascinating spot in the mezcal world: He works closely with Puro Burro which leads trips to Oaxaca geared toward the hospitality industry, and is a bartender at Mezcalogia, Asis' Oaxaca mezcaleria. Zach acts as a kind of connector for the Casa de Cortes "empire" with Mezcalogia and the world outside of Oaxaca. His love and enthusiasm for mezcal, and Oaxaca, cannot be overstated.

[caption id="attachment_6393" align="aligncenter" width="960"] Espadin against the dramatic sky[/caption] A few years ago I was introduced to Francisco Perez who was traveling through the US promoting an Ejutla, Oaxaca based mezcal cooperative, Integradora Comercial de Ejutla SA de CV ICESA, and its mezcal brand, Forever Oaxaca. Our continued correspondence kept me abreast of the expanding cooperative, their changing branding (now Siempre Oaxaca with a focus on small production mezcals), and the addition of new lines including Banhez and El Ejuteco. Max and I were lucky enough to celebrate Christmas in San Miguel Ejutla last year, which we tried to capture here.

[caption id="attachment_6374" align="aligncenter" width="720"] The colors of La Guelaguetza in full bloom.[/caption] We arrived just as the morning sky was breaking open and the rain had stopped. There had been a torrential storm when we landed in Mexico City the night before, and despite having put in a four hour buffer to get through customs, get to the bus station, and grab something to eat before catching our midnight bus to Oaxaca, we barely made it. Rain has inundated Mexico City and created traffic havoc on an already traffic laden city.

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