Phil Bayly is one of the most respected advocates for agave spirits doing the rounds, and he has recently been appointed as the first global mezcal ambassador by the category’s regulatory body, the Consejo Regulator de Mezcal.
But what does a mezcal ambassador do? We’ve asked Bayly that, and for his tips on how you can get more punters taking the leap into the world of mezcal, in the Q&A below, including which glass you should use when serving mezcal.
What does the ambassador title involve for you, and how does it feel?
It requires me to represent all aspects of the category, to promote the culture behind the spirit and help consumers to give it the respect that the spirit deserves. This a unique category predominantly made by indigenous communities for religious and social occasions. My role is to help bartenders and consumers alike navigate the complexities of this amazing spirit and understand and appreciate the blood sweat and tears that has gone into making it.
To be recognised by the Consejo Regulator de Mezcal is very humbling for me, to be representing the largest DOA in the world that covers some 500,000 square kilometres is a bit overwhelming but I am ready for the challenge. The CRM has given me direct access to accurate information about the category and updates me on new developments in the category as they happen. I am sure there are many people who have worked longer with mezcal and know more than I do. I see it as my duty to learn and understand as much as I can about the different states of the DOA, the different production processes they use and diversity of the magueys that grow in those regions and to share this information.
What is it about mezcal you love?
Well obviously the liquid itself, the variety of taste profiles and complexities that come from the different regions and the magueys or agaves used, but it is much more than that, it is the people who are involved, the people in their tiny makeshift palenques or viñatas making the liquid, using the most rudimentary equipment, armed only with their heritage and knowledge passed down from generation to generation. When you sit with some of these producers in their humble abodes eating their food with their families and drinking their mezcal in some remote part of Mexico, it makes you realise just how humble and unique this spirit is. It is real, it is honest and when you drink enough and I don’t mean shooting it down, but sipping it slowly, you reach an elevated state of enlightenment.
This is what I love about Mezcal.
What’s one piece of advice you can give to bartenders who want to get the wider public drinking more mezcal?
Firstly I would ask the customer what is their spirit of choice? I would then decide what style of Mezcal and what form to introduce them to it.
In a cocktail, my favourite has always been the Mezcal Negroni but it can also be a Mezcal Tommy’s Margarita, a Mezcal Mule, these are all simple recipes and easy to achieve and need to be matched with the customers existing palate to make it approachable.
As a straight pour it could be a 40% ABV mezcal for someone who is not familiar with high ABV spirits or for single malt drinkers I would offer a varietal such as Madrecuishe, Barril or one of my favourites is minero from Del Maguey at 49%ABV using espadin the most common varietal, which will really blow them away.
The key when serving mezcal, is to serve it in the appropriate glass. High ABV mezcals are best enjoyed in a glass called a Veladora, traditionally a church candle glass, but any glass with a wide brim to give it lots of air like a small rocks is perfect. Do not serve it in a tasting glass as the high ABV will overwhelm their nose palate.