The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recognizes Mexico’s cuisine as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Mexican food is known world-wide, and it’s pretty damn good. Mexican liquor, on the other hand, doesn’t enjoy the same widespread fame and love. I’m here to advocate for change in that regard.
I’m currently geeking out over all types of agave distillates and given that we plan to be in Oaxaca in about a week or so, I’m getting a head start on learning what I can about Mezcal. Much of that learning has come from drinking, and even more from reading. Oaxaca produces about 80% – 90% of all mezcal, but there are seven other Mexican states that produce mezcal. Mezcal is made from agave. That’s the short story.
Sotol doesn’t quite fit the bill. The production methods are very similar to that of mezcal, but botanists have reclassified the dasylirion wheeleri (desert spoon) plant that sotol is made from, so technically speaking, it’s not agave (but once was) and therefore the distillate can not be called mezcal. Much like how Champagne can only come from Champagne, otherwise it’s sparkling wine, there are laws covering this sort of thing. Add to the confusion the fact that desert spoon grows in some states that are mezcal producing states as well as non-mezcal producing states.
I had previously heard of sotol but had never had the chance to try it, nor even seen it so I was very excited to have that opportunity just last evening. We were on our way to Thanksgiving dinner and opted for a pre-dinner drink as is often the case. We stopped at a little bar called Don Taco Tequila and the moment I walked in, I saw the sotol on the shelf. Not one, but two bottles. The menu listed three types of sotol actually, there was Durango, Chihuahua and reposado. Unfortunately, the reposado was unavailable and apparently quite rare. They also had a selection of local microbrews.
A beer and a distillate of some sort is the general program, and I was quite happy with my choice. I tried the Durango sotol first. It lacked that smokiness that is typical of mezcal and instead had what I can only describe as a dairy type taste on the front, like a mild cheese, earthy but not overbearing. It was smooth through the middle and finished with a bit of a bite. Next I gave the Chihuahua sotol a try. I was expecting something similar to the first and I was very wrong. This one started off a bit sweet, moved on to something floral and finished smoothly. This is what I love about mezcal and its ilk. One kind of liquor, made from the same type of plant, by the same producer and yet, due to where the plants grow (presumably) the final product is completely different.
Had it not been for our Thanksgiving dinner reservations, we may have just hung out here for a while. The taco menu looked pretty fantastic and reviews are good. If you’re following a similar overlanding route as we are, you should stop in at Don Taco Tequila. Enjoy a sotol and let me know how those tacos are. Just don’t drive afterward.