Agave and beyond at Imbibe Live

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Location: South America

There was an abundance of tequila, mezcal and more from Latin America throughout Imbibe Live this year, from hands-on sessions to rare finds on the show floor. Clinton Cawood charts through the top finds. 


Latin Spirit

Ivy Mix started her career at the legendary Café No Sé in Antigua, Guatemala where, at 19 years old, she ended up working to pay off her bar tab, before moving to New York in 2009. There she worked at agave-spirit-specialist Mayahuel before moving to Clover Club, which led to her opening her own bar, Leyenda, with in 2015.

Given this impressive CV, and Leyenda’s focus on Latin spirits, Mix had plenty of wisdom to impart to her rapt audience, starting with a discussion of all things agave – tequila and mezcal of course, but touching on raicilla, sotol and baccanora. ‘There’s even a Oaxacan rum, Paranubes, now that I can’t recommend highly enough,’ she added.

This led to a discussion of Latin American rums in general, before Mix moved on to Latin America’s grape spirits. As she put it: ‘No one dislikes pisco.’ A tip from Leyenda was to offer Pisco Sodas as an interesting alternative to the Vodka Soda.

What’s next, according to Mix, for Latin Spirits? There was the UK launch of Bolivian spirit Singani 63 that night, for starters. And if you haven’t discovered Haiti’s sugarcane spirit clairin yet, that’s worth getting your hands on.

Where there is smoke…

For those after a practical guide to making better use of mezcal in cocktails, the session by Benjamin Padrón Novoa and José Luis León Martinez from Mexico City’s Licoreria Limantour was the place to be. The pair broke down the process of building a mezcal cocktail into three general steps, imparting some serious agave knowledge in the process.

First up, they explained, is to understand your product, down to every aspect of production. In mezcal’s case this includes how the agave plants are milled, cooked, fermented and distilled. Armed with this knowledge, the second step is to understand the flavours you’re working with, including the ways in which those flavours change when the mezcal you’re using is diluted.

Finally, Novoa and Martinez explained, it’s essential to understand your needs. ‘Mezcal is popular but expensive too,’ they explained. While you might be able to make an incredible drink with an expensive mezcal, that cost makes it unlikely to meet the practical needs of your bar. An understanding of all three steps means that you’re able to create something with mezcal that’s both delicious and appropriate to your venue.

On the floor

Between sessions there was no shortage of Latin Spirit to be found on exhibitors’ stands, such as the masterclass in mezcal that is the Derrumbes range from Speciality Brands, offering insight into various regions and varieties of agave.

A visit to Hi-Spirits meant a taste of the excellent Corazon Tequila range, set to launch in the UK in about a month.

The team at Amathus brought some hidden agave gems to the show to include in its tastings – everything from Mezcal Los Danzantes 20th Anniversary Edition – 54.8% distil strength and rested one year in glass demijohns – to Alipús Olla de Barro ‘Tio Jesus’, a clay mezcal from Sola De Vega made using 80% Espadín and 20% Arroqueño.

About Author

Clinton Cawood

Clinton has been writing about drinks since landing in the UK in 2006 from his native South Africa. He's partial to all things agave, and is dependent on good coffee. He's still not a morning person. Follow him on @clintc.

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