Drinking Mezcal with Del Maguey's Ron Cooper, the Spirit King
Ron Cooper, founder of Del Maguey mezcal, is the pioneering visionary who introduced the world to mezcal over 20 years ago. Before his tireless efforts to distribute mezcal around the globe, it was a relatively unknown drink in spite of being distilled in Mexico for centuries.
Ron, an abstract artist whose work is exhibited in museums the world over, founded his mezcal company Del Maguey in an effort to elevate the spirits profile outside of Mexico and give back to the villagers who create it for him.
He insists on "single village mezcal" which means that each variety comes from a single village in order to celebrate that region's unique terroir.
A few weeks ago, I traveled to Oaxaca with the chef Alex Stupak to visit Ron and travel with him from village to village learning about every aspect of mezcal production from harvest to roasting to fermenting to distilling. It was an incredible eduction and one that every mezcal lover should experience.
At the beginning of the visit, Ron handed us a tiny terra cotta mezcal tasting cup and told us not to misplace it. There was good reason for it. Over the course of the next few days we tasted a dizzying variety of mezcal with the villagers who produce it. We even tasted the "iberico mezcal" that chef Jose Andres is creating as a limited edition in collaboration with Ron.