Whether it was a libation for kings or the tears of the gods, the beverage known as mezcal has its roots in Mexican and Aztec cultures.
Using the drink, Skere Spirits launched Mestizo Mezcal in September in Henderson to bring a taste of that history to the valley.
“We want to bring the diversity from around the world,” said Jessica Rosman, founder of the company. “What better way to get to learn about another culture than through a cocktail?”
A longtime Henderson resident, Rosman left for college wanting to study international development.
After graduating from the University of California, Los Angeles, she wanted to find a job in which she could develop a relationship between America and the international community.
She began working in Mexico with an organization that focused on increasing trade development.
From the different foods and beverages to customs, she fell in love with the cultures and wanted to figure out a way to share that with people in the United States.
Along the way, she also met another UCLA graduate, Arturo Palencia.
After brainstorming ideas, they decided to enter the market selling the handcrafted mezcal, a distilled alcoholic beverage made from the maguey plant.
The drink is similar to tequila, but the main difference is in the species of agave plant used — more than 200 species exist in Mexico — and the distinct production processes.
“We are bringing back the basics,” Rosman said. “It has a much stronger, savory taste.”
The beverage didn’t offer just a different taste. Rosman said it also had a rich history.
The maguey, also known as agave, was a sacred plant in pre-Hispanic Mexico.
Agave was used in the production of medicines, rope, textiles, honey, tortillas and mezcal, which was a luxury enjoyed exclusively by kings and priests.
According to Aztec myth, the goddess of fertility, Mayahuel, was the original source of the maguey plant. Mayahuel’s grandmother killed her after she ran away to be with Quetzalcoatl.
“Where his tears fell, the plant grew,” Rosman said.
She added that the myth is something referenced in parts of the region.
Rosman and Palencia searched for farms in Mexico and visited Oaxaca wanting to partner with a local farmer.
Traveling 40 minutes outside the city to the village of Matatla, they found the mezcal factories — the area is known as the mezcal capital of the world.
Each farmer has a different way of crafting his brew.
After visiting 45 different families, they met one in Oaxaca with which they wanted to partner.
After five years and numerous trips to Mexico, the company began distributing in the U.S., launching the product first in Texas.
“They already had an understanding of the product,” Rosman said.
In September, they decided to set up shop for Skere Spirits in Henderson and introduce the Las Vegas Valley to the product.
When bringing the product to Las Vegas, the company decided to use Booze Brothers Beverage as its distributor.
“They had the same concept as us,” Rosman said. “They wanted local people, too.”
Justin Wallin, owner of Booze Brothers Beverage, said he discovered Mestizo Mezcal at an event.
“It was really different and high quality,” he said. “So we met with Jessica and started a partnership.”
Wallin added Booze Brothers is a smaller company and selective about the products it takes in.
“We thought this product would be a good fit,” he added.
The drink is featured at a variety of Las Vegas bars, including the Velveteen Rabbit, the Downtown Cocktail Room and La Comida.
“I’m surprised how quickly Las Vegas is catching on,” Rosman said.
She added that the culture in Las Vegas is becoming more supportive of local ventures.
People have responded to the name as well, which was carefully crafted, Rosman said.
“We picked over 200 names and did 12 focus groups to see what people liked,” she said. “The name rose to the top.”
Mestizo comes from the Latin word and means to mix, which Rosman added also fit well with the company’s mission.
She said the company is ready to launch Mestizo Mezcal nationwide, starting in cities such as San Francisco and New York City.
For more information, visit mestizomezcal.com.
Contact Henderson/Anthem View reporter Michael Lyle at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-5201.