Down mezcal way in Oaxaca

You can find it on the menu in London’s hipster bars, but mezcal, known as ‘tequila’s father’, is best tasted in southern Mexico. Our writer tries some of the finest on a tour of distilleries and in the bars of Oaxaca city

It’s late morning 20 miles outside the city of Oaxaca, in southern Mexico, and I’m staring at what looks like a meteor crater filled with giant pine cones. The cones – from the agave plant – are still warm to the touch, and there’s a sweet smell in the air, like pineapple and caramel. The crater looks like something prehistoric, almost primordial, but it is, in fact, an agave oven, used to make mezcal – the drink sometimes called tequila’s father – and I’m on a day-long mezcal tour to find out more about it.

A few years ago, relatively few people in the UK had tried mezcal, but gradually it has made its way into the booze aficionado’s repertoire, sometimes as a tipple on its own, sometimes as a base for cocktails. Dedicated mezcal bars have popped up in London recently, in fashionable but edgy Dalston (at appointment-only boutique LN-CC) or in plusher Fitzrovia (at Mezcalería, above the Charlotte Street branch of the Mexican restaurant chain Wahaca).

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