Despite the speed of liquor fads these days, still trending high in the spirits world this season is smokey, sultry mezcal – with its roots in Oaxaca and generations of tradition. And one of our favorites is Mexico’s Mezcal Union, whose Alejandro Champion we had the chance to chat with about their overall philosophy.
Of course, with popularity comes demand, and with that, the fear of lost quality for quantity is always a concern – something that Mezcal Unión has actively addressed. How? Their mission of “uniting Oaxaca’s farmers and producers.” Which has made it possible for agave, which is a finicky plant, to thrive. All with the end goal of improving their palenques (distilleries) and ensuring more top quality mezcal production for years to come.
As Champion puts it, he and his partners “decided to come together to make a product they and their country could be proud of, by creating a ‘union’ meant to benefit the indigenous families of Oaxaca.”
Is their plan working? The numbers speak for themselves. At least 255,000 brand new agave have been replanted in the the past three years alone.
The company has also expanded to a series of restaurants, bars and events, spreading across the globe. They refer to it as the “Archipélago” because “it is a large company made of up of many smaller projects.” One such new partnership for this summer will be Cafe Paraíso, an offshoot of the Mexico City nightspot, this one located in the backyard at Roberta’s in Bushwick. It will be a season-long homage to the intense but elegant spirit.
And though we’re planning to spend quite a bit of time at the Brooklyn Paraíso in the coming months, we took the opportunity to actually ask Champion about the best places to drink mezcal in his beloved Mexico City. Here are his five recommendations, and what to drink at each.
Cocktail: Yoko (Mezcal Union El Joven, Grapefruit Juice, Aperol, Sparkling wine) / Bartender: Jake Lindeman
Cicatriz is a place created by five authentic persons, whose personalities, taste and spirit are represented in every detail of this cafe. It is a very unique place in Mexico City, a casual cafe, restaurant and cocktail bar, all in one. In my opinion it brought a very different vibe to the city. Very simple menu, but everything on it is simply delicious. And the atmosphere is very international. You see people from different countries, cultures, but all enjoying and creating one great scene.
Cocktail: Maurito (Mezcal Unión El Joven, Lemon juice, Guava pure, Tonic water) / Bartender: Edsel
A fun, tropical dance bar, it’s located in the heart of Colonia Roma. If you feel like dancing and sweating away the stress, having some good tiki vibe cocktails and mezcal, in a very casual, non pretentious atmosphere, this is the place. The music program is one of my favorites, very eclectic: cumbia, salsa, reggaeton, hip hop. Transports you to a crazy party on an island, when in fact you are in the middle of Mexico City.
Cocktail: Pepino (Mezcal Union El Joven, Macerated Cucumber, Lemon juice, Ginger Syrup, Rosemary and Sparkling water)
Páramo is a family business, which is what I love the most about it. There are not many times you get to see mom and sons running the show. It exemplifies the core of Mexican culture in a very contemporary way, yet it is authentic to the bone. A place where you can sit down, drink mezcal, and eat the best antojos Mexicanos. It’s a cantina vibe, but very comfortable, the architectural design and details transport you to the most mystical aspects of Mexican Prehispánica culture. A place to hang, laugh and have a good time.
Drink: Straight Mezcal Union El Viejo with oranges and worm salt / Chef: Gaby Cámara
Gaby Cámara is one of the persons that I admire the most. A young woman who has represented the values of Mexico from an early age, through her kitchen and hard work. Contramar exemplifies the core of Mexican hospitality, and Mexican cuisine. A place that proves that Mexico is warm hearted culture, with extraordinarily good food. A must to visit when in CDMX.
Cocktail: Mezcal Stalk (Mezcal Union El Joven, Pineapple juice, Agave syrup, Worm salt) / Bartender: José Luis León
Limantour happens to be the first relevant cocktail bar in CDMX, a pioneering place that has represented Mexico throughout the world, and an institution for the industry. It is a Mexican cocktail bar, which defied all odds by venturing into a category when no one was really looking for it. A cradle of the new world bartender culture.