Episode #088 – Interview with Emma Janzen

On this episode, we talk with Emma Janzen, author of Mezcal: The History, Craft & Cocktails of the World’s Ultimate Artisanal Spirit. Emma is a journalist, photographer, and editor based in Chicago, where she currently works as the digital content editor at Imbibe Magazine.

We’ve talked about mezcal previously in Episode #017, and we both consider mezcal one of our favorite spirits. In our conversation with Emma, we go beyond the basics into a discussion of the variety of agave plants distilled into mezcal, terrior, traditional production and distillation methods, and the opportunities and challenges for scaling production while remaining true to the history, tradition, and methods of such a storied spirit.

Emma shares with us her thoughts on the taste and complexity of mezcals, and the variety of flavors among them. She mentions that after tasting countless varieties, her palate often finds the nearly ubiquitously mentioned smokiness of mezcal to be secondary to other primary flavor notes. We talk a bit about recommended brands, particularly those which are more widely distributed.

Of course, we also talk about mezcal cocktails, especially the recipes included in Emma’s book. Many of us first discovered mezcal for ourselves with a variation on a classic tequila cocktail, but it is much too versatile liquor to limit yourself to making tequila substitutions. The layers of flavor in mezcal means that it does well with fruit and citrus, herbs, bitter, sour, and earthy flavors. It also mixes well with other base spirits such as rum and whiskey.

There are a ton of great new mezcal recipes to try in the book. Below is one of our favorites, just for a taste.

Age of Discovery:

  • 3/4 oz. Cruzan Blackstrap Rum
  • 3/4 oz. Del Maguey Vida mezcal
  • 1/4 oz. Luxardo maraschino liqueur
  • 1/4 oz. turbinado and raw maguey sap syrup
  • 1 dash of Angostura bitters
  • Garnish with Nanche berries (sub maraschino cherry)

Method: Stir ingredients together with ice in a rocks glass. Garnish with berries or a cherry.