Mezcal's Electric Buzz
Not surprisingly, the Food & Wine Classic comprises mostly of food- and wine-related seminars and tastings, but the event's singular spirits seminar was the most lively I attended this weekend. Yesterday afternoon in a jam-packed room at the Sky Hotel, tequila evangelist Steven Olson led a tasting of extra-anejo mezcal (mezcal is an agave-based spirit produced anywhere in Mexico; tequila is mezcal produced in one of five designated Mexican states), which included bottles that range in retail price from $175-$450 and are so scarce that mezcal geeks (a rapidly growing force) pay several times more online. The seminar was so sought-after that even legendary mixologist Dale DeGroff couldn't land a seat.
There was a huge mezcal buzz elsewhere in Aspen. Del Maguey, which produces several single-village mezcals, had one of the most popular booths at the Grand Tasting. Montagna sommelier, Richard Betts, who is a unabashed mezcal fiend, couldn't stop talking about the stuff. (Partly because he's launching his own mezcal label later this year). Betts, Olson and several other wine and spirits experts said this weekend that mezcal is the next big trend in spirits. After tasting about 20 fantastic mezcals this weekend, I think they're right.