food + drink

Sustainability in Spirits: A Focus on Mezcal

Cindy's Spirit Guide Nandini Khaund Talks Mezcal

Cindy's Spirit Guide Nandini Khaund

Cindy’s Spirit Guide Nandini Khaund

SPRING 2018 – “I had my first sip of true mezcal over a decade ago. The terroir-driven mystical spirit immediately spoke to me — the agave I had only known in the form of tequila suddenly expanded my consciousness. Mezcal becomes an echo of the elements around it, with hints of the Sierra Madre Mountains, roasted earthen pits of fire, an inexplicable mouthfeel and an otherworldly buzz. When you drink it you can feel the magic and energy present; you can taste the intent behind it. 

The Zapotecans believe the goddess of fertility, Mayahuel, is the personification of the maguey plant (agave), which comprises 300 species and each agave takes anywhere from five to 35 years to mature. When you buy a bottle of mezcal, each contains one varietal’s experience of years of weather, terroir and growth. Each bottle is unique, much like different vintages of wine. Mezcal is not just booze. It’s alive with ancient Zapotecan traditions and the “spiritus animus” of each resilient yet capricious maguey plant. We need to work hard to ensure its sustainability and to keep the ancient traditions of its production alive. 

This is where we come in. Supplier/buyer relationships are very important and we need to hold our industry to a certain level of social accountability. As we strive for sustainability, our choices are impactful. As bartenders, chefs and imbibers, we have a huge effect on the future of mezcal production. 

During my recent trip to Oaxaca, I met “Mezcal Jesus,” Alejandro Champion, and “Maestro” Pedro Hernandez of the collective Mezcal Uniòn (a true collective of farmers/producers that make fair trade, sustainable and “woke” mezcal). The entire team showed us such incredible hospitality while espousing the mystical philosophies behind North America’s oldest spirit as we all came together over exquisite food, resplendent music, breathtaking scenery, a cascade of twinkling stars in the high Sierra and generally awesome good times.

I came back energized and immediately began a weekly spirit education series for our staff at Cindy’s to encourage the spirit of gathering and the art of education, while developing our palates and a passion for sustainability. In each class, we share an exchange of ideas, thoughts and history that coalesce into creating our own theories of spirits in the context of ethnobotany. Our hope is this weekly ritual imbues the Cindy’s team with our own voices and stories when you visit us next. A sip of mezcal on a cold, winter day is a perfect escape and a great excuse to come see us.” –– Nandini Khaund

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