Food & Drink: A Royal Rendezvous with Mezcal
Let us regale you with tales of a most enchanting elixir, a potion steeped in history and brimming with character – the illustrious mezcal.
The annals of time reveal that mezcal, like many great inventions, owes its birth to happenstance. The Aztecs had been fermenting agave, a desert plant native to Mexico, to create a drink called pulque for centuries. Legend has it that a bolt of lightning struck an agave plant, cooking and releasing its sweet, fermentable juices. The indigenous peoples took this divine sign and created the earliest iteration of mezcal. The word “mezcal” itself stems from the Nahuatl words “metl” and “ixcalli,” which mean “oven-cooked agave.”
Mezcal remained a humble, rustic beverage until they were introduced to the art of distillation. The farmers employed this newfound technique to create a more potent spirit, and thus, mezcal as we know it was born.
Orlando magazine sat down with executive chef and partner at Reyes Mezcaleria, Wendy Lopez, to learn more about mezcal and where to try it locally!
Born in Michoacán, Mexico, Wendy Lopez came to Florida in 1998. She studied at Le Cordon Bleu before diving into the Orlando culinary scene. In 2018 Lopez accepted the position of executive chef at Reyes Mezcaleria, returning to her Mexican culinary roots. Lopez has made multiple appearances on The Food Network and has been recognized as Best Chef and Critic’s Choice in Orlando magazine and Orlando Sentinel.
“Mezcal is super underrated. Even six years ago, the information on mezcal was scarce,” says Lopez. “We are a craft cocktail bar, and mezcal provides a lot of flavor and body.” Good Salt Group’s beverage director, Lorena Castro emphasizes, “all of our cocktails have mezcal in them; they’re light and refreshing in the summer and more comforting in the winter. Currently, we have a really fun cocktail called Two Mango.”
Lopez and her team boast over 162 agave spirits on-site and a number of delicious gins and rums from Mexico. “We want to give people the experience of trying mezcal. We can show our guests how to use mezcal in their favorite cocktails, like an Old Fashioned or more traditional margaritas. We want to open their minds,” notes Castro.
Both Lopez and Castro sought to expand their selection within the restaurant, providing something truly unique to patrons. “We partnered with La Luna distillery to make our own mezcal batch specifically for Reyes. Wendy and I developed the flavor, pulling from Wendy’s roots in Michoacán. It came out perfectly; it’s so refreshing and so light. It’s typically made with turkey or chicken breast but ours is made with pork, avocado leaf, dill, plum, pepper and so much more,” Castro explains.
Michoacán is one of eight states with the Denominación de Origen necessary to produce and distribute mezcal in Mexico and other parts of the world. With production located in the green mountainous areas of Michoacán, La Luna Mezcal stands out for its dedication to methods passed down by generations of local families who made artisanal and ancestral mezcal. Chef Lopez notes, “it dances on the palate and is a great option for first-timers”. Their specific batch of La Luna Mezcal is available in-restaurant by the glass or bottle. This batch is limited to a 100 bottle-run, so do not hesitate if you’re inclined to add one more to your collection.
“Our cocktails elevate the food, the food elevates the cocktails, and it’s a beautiful circle of things.” —Executive Chef Wendy Lopez
Now you’ve journeyed through the captivating world of mezcal – from its serendipitous beginnings to the exquisite local options that have earned the right to grace the finest glassware. As you raise a toast to this most enchanting spirit, remember that, in the words of the illustrious playwright and bon vivant Oscar Wilde, “everything in moderation, including moderation.”
So, indulge, imbibe, and revel in the storied splendor of mezcal, for it is a treasure to be savored by discerning palates and regal personages alike. Salud!