PRAISE FOR THE MEZCAL RUSH:
“A rich, inclusive portrait of one of the world’s great drinks.” —Kirkus Reviews
“A unique and fascinating journey following the mezcal trail from remote Mexican villages to trendy bars abroad … Greene’s lively and skillful blend of travelogue and social commentary charts the sometimes troubled links between these very different worlds.” —Gideon Rachman,
chief foreign affairs commentator, The Financial Times
Mezcal may be the oldest distilled spirit in the Americas, but has exploded in popularity only recently. In The Mezcal Rush: Explorations in Agave Country (Counterpoint Press, 295 pages), Granville Greene vividly describes his quest through the Mexican highlands to learn more about the varied cultures, plants, and traditions surrounding the drink, which has become a craft cocktail darling.
He soon finds that, unlike most high-end spirits, small-batch mezcals are typically produced by and for subsistence farming communities, where maestros mezcaleros distill their signature drinks using local agaves and artisanal production methods honed through generations of mezcal-making families. Greene visits remote indigenous villages in Oaxaca and Guerrero states, where the spirit is never mixed into cocktails and is reserved instead for consuming puro on special occasions—a liquid language celebrating community identity along with the diverse characters of numerous agave species.
Greene joins the maestros in the arduous tasks of mezcal-making, as they harvest agave hearts from treacherous mountain slopes, roast them in underground pit ovens, grind them in rustic mills, and distill the fermented mash over wood fires through long nights under the stars. Ambient elements enter the process—the natural yeasts of a lime tree growing near a still, the unique minerality of the local spring water—as each mezcal becomes an individual expression of plants, place, and the artistry of its maker.
Sipping a handcrafted mezcal, Greene comes to understand, is like being invited into someone’s home and allows us to transcend borders. Yet while visiting a cocktail convention in New Orleans and hip new mezcal bars in the U.S. and abroad, he finds an ongoing disconnect with the maestros, who have been swept up in a hot new booze trend in which they have little voice. Greene explores the dynamics of a cultural commodity undergoing a gold-rush style surge as a luxury export, and the consequent overharvesting that threatens agaves growing in the wild, as he finds the ancient spirit at a new crossroads.
With illustrations by Jack DeLap.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: GRANVILLE GREENE is a graduate of The Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University. He has written for Outside, The New York Times, and many other publications. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.