During the past year and a half my love of Mezcal grew. To keep it real, I always had to sip a margarita while watching the show Monarca on Netflix. I ran out of tequila and started using Mezcal and now I’m hooked.
I had the pleasure of connecting with Misty Kalkofen, the Madrina of Del Maguey Single Village Mezcal. They recently launched Del Maguey Vida de Muertos. The artisanal, twice-distilled mezcal with an ABV of 45%, giving it a creamy texture and long complex finish. It’s Inspired by the tradition of creating special mezcal in celebration of Día de los Muertos.
Find out how Kalkofen found her way into Mezcal, why bartenders love Del Maguey , and so much more.
YS: How did you discover your passion for Mezcal?
MK: Like so many bartenders, my first sip of Mezcal was served to me by Ron Cooper and it was truly an eye-opening experience. I had never tasted a spirit with so much depth in flavor and character. A story accompanied each sip that Ron poured for me, transporting me to each of the communities and introducing me to the producers, their traditions and the production process as I was tasting their Mezcals. Ron is an amazing storyteller, so the combination of his narration and the taste of place represented in the flavors of the Mezcals truly transported me to Oaxaca and I was hooked!
YS: It’s been said that Del Maguey Mezcal is a favorite among bartenders, why is that?
MK: Del Maguey was many bartenders’ first experience with Mezcal and one can never forget their first love, no? Ron Cooper always speaks about art being transformative in some way, creating that a-ha moment, and for bartenders around the globe (including myself) their first sip was an a-ha moment because Mezcal is Liquid Art. The full-bodied and complex Mezcals in our portfolio grab the imagination of bartenders, take them to places they have not been before. And lucky for us, when you have a revelatory experience like that you want to not only remember it, but repeat it and share it.
YS: What makes the new expression Del Maguey Vida de Muertos unique?
MK: Vida de Muertos is inspired by the Mezcal that producer Paciano Cruz Nolasco and his son Marcos Cruz Mendez make around Día de los Muertos to share with their family and friends during this special time of year. It is very common that a family will produce a Mezcal a little lower in alcohol for celebrations when there might be many copitas shared over the course of many hours. So, Vida de Muertos is made using the same traditional methods as Paciano’s original San Luis del Rio but is distilled to 45% rather than 47%. It’s rich and luscious, and it transports me back to years past when I’ve been able to visit Paciano and his family during this very special time.
YS: How do you think someone should experience the spirit…neat or in a cocktail?
MK: People should enjoy Mezcal the way that is best for them. I personally love sipping Mezcal neat so I can really enjoy the nuance and complexities of the spirit, but cocktails have provided a gateway into the category for many people who feel that a neat pour is too strong for them. There is no wrong way as long as you are enjoying what you are sipping.
YS: In the past few years more people around the world are celebrating Dia de Muertos. What are some of the traditions associated with this?
MK: The time around Día de los Muertos is my favorite time to be in Oaxaca. Oaxaca is always colorful and vibrant, but around Muertos that is amplified in the most beautiful way. The holiday falls at the end of the rainy season, so the countryside is lush and green, and all the flowers are blooming. Altars are constructed in the homes and are decorated with Cempasuchiles (marigolds), candles and pan de muerto, a sweet bread made specifically for the holiday. Favorite items of departed loved ones, such as favorite foods, mezcal or cigarettes, are placed on the altar to encourage the spirits of the departed to return. On the evening of Nov. 1 and on Nov. 2 people visit the homes of friends and family, bringing offerings to their altars and then partaking in pan de muerto, chocolate, tamales and, of course, mezcal while sharing stories and memories. Finally, on the evening of the 2nd the community proceeds to the cemetery to send the spirits back to the underworld where they can petition on our behalf until the following Día de los Muertos. It’s a beautiful holiday full of remembrance while also recognizing that, although they may not be with us physically, are departed loved ones are still with us in spirit.