By Alvin Starkman, M.A., J.D.
Every month I receive emails asking where to source small batch, traditionally made, high quality mezcal in Huatulco or Puerto Escondido. It’s always surprised me that there could be any corner of Oaxaca in which it could be difficult to find unique, fine-sipping hooch; after all, this state is Mexico’s ground zero for the production of the agave distillate. So when I first saw this month’s theme for the magazine, aside from the district’s meteoric growth over the past 30 years, the most significant and recent progress I was able to recall was the arrival of truly boutique, upper-premium mezcal.
Yes, of late mezcal watering holes have cropped up in both towns, featuring quality product; however, they typically offer the same artisanal brands one can find in major centers throughout the US and to a lesser extent Canada, albeit somewhat less costly.
Enter Mezcalería Gota Gorda, located in the still-quaint beach town of Zipolite, between the two burgeoning Oaxacan tourist resorts of Huatulco and Puerto Escondido. It opened its doors just this past December, and has quickly found a following of locals, snowbirds and more short-term visitors seeking the real deal at accessible prices.
Gota Gorda owner Danielle (Dani) Tatarin has been in the cocktail and spirits business for 20 years. And for close to the past decade she has been honing her expertise in the area of mezcal, traveling dirt roads in search of rural makers whose families have been distilling for hundreds of years if not longer. Batch size of what she brings back to Zipolite, produced in both copper alembics and ancestral clay pots, ranges from 40 to 300 liters, and no more. Some of the agave is harvested from small plots under cultivation, while she also offers mezcal made from species sourced from the wild.
But Dani’s pedigree is even more impressive. The transplanted Canadian has:
-both won and been a finalist in cocktail competitions in Mexico, Canada, France, and the US
-been named bartender of the year by Vancouver Magazine
-presented as an honored guest at New Orleans’ prestigious Tales of the Cocktail
-co-founded one of the top ten rated bars in Mexico (Acre) as well as the Cabo Cocktail Festival
-founded one of the world’s top 100 bars (The Keefer Bar), as well as the Canadian Professional Bartenders Association, which she served as president
But most recently it’s been Dani’s vision that has brought her to the Oaxacan coast. She initially planned to bring small batch high-quality agave distillates to parts of the country outside of Oaxaca and into the US and Canada and founded the brand Gota Gorda with that in mind. Then, while she was living in Baja California, a friend introduced her to Zipolite. When the opportunity arose to open up a mezcalería in a cool, tucked away little hidden spot, in a region surprisingly devoid of what she was interested in personally drinking, a light went on: why not bring fine ultra-premium mezcal to the area, while at the same time use the locale as a launching pad for Gota Gorda? Dani was actually shocked at the lack of good small batch mezcal available on the Oaxacan coast.
Not to mislead, the type of mezcal offered at her Zipolite mezcalería is indeed available at several small bars and mezcalerías in the city of Oaxaca. But until now spirits aficionados visiting or living on the coast have had to drive about seven hours to the state capital to find this kind of agave distillate within the context of a curated experience – but no longer.
Mezcalería Gota Gorda currently offers eight different mezcal expressions at between 70 and 180 pesos per healthy pour, or a flight of six for only 300 pesos. Drawing upon her mixology expertise, she has also developed her own recipe for an additional agave distillate, prepared with a series of herbs and bitters. Clients have been raving about it. And there are apparently more unique offerings in the works. For those who are ready to depart Gota Gorda and lament about never again being able to replicate the experience, Dani offers sealed, labeled bottles of your favorites, ready to take home on the plane.
Gota Gorda also gives patrons an opportunity to sample real pulque, the aguamiel (honey water), or fermented sap, from certain agave species. In pre-Hispanic times it was reserved for gods and high priests. Pulque available in retail outlets throughout the country is typically adulterated with sweetener, fruit extract, thickener and even milk or cream to create what’s known as a curado. By contrast, Gota Gorda’s pulque is pure, with several scientifically proven medicinal properties. It’s a product of the natural environment with nothing added. When visiting Dani’s mezcalería you also get a lesson about pulque, and of course about mezcal. Since the locale is small and intimate, you’re able to interact one-on-one with Doña Danielle Tatarin, a treat in and of itself.
Gota Gorda is about a 45 minute drive from Huatulco, and 75 minutes from Puerto Escondido. It’s open Tuesday through Sunday 5:30 pm to midnight; Calle Shambala s/n, Frente a Hotel El Noga, Col. Roca Blanca, Playa Zipolite, Pochutla 70904; cel 001 624 166 8730.
Alvin Starkman operates Mezcal Educational Excursions of Oaxaca (www.mezcaleducationaltours.com).
By Alvin Starkman, M.A., J.D.
Infrastructure together with socio-economic and political matters continue to be problematic in Oaxaca, but there have been gains which impact all of us. So here are the top ten technological advancements that I’ve noticed over the past decade or so, the only caveat being that to me they are technological, but to others they may be minor improvements and little more. Continue reading Top Ten Technological Advancements This Past Decade in Oaxaca
By Alvin Starkman, M.A., J.D.
Oaxaca is a wonderful place to live in and visit. The broad theme of this magazine is to praise all that is great about vacationing and residing both on the coast, and in the state’s interior. But it’s high time that readers obtain at least a glimpse of the underside, because like all other locales, Oaxaca is not rosy much of the time for many, in particular for full-time residents, whether transplants or native born. Continue reading The Schizophrenia that is Oaxaca
By Leigh Morrow
The $4.00 T-Shirt. The $7.00 jeans. These are examples of low cost clothing that are swimming in the closets of North Americans, obsessed with cheap chic. Fast fashion is the industry’s term for the speed at which trendy styles move from the catwalks to the stores. Continue reading Fast Fashion – Are We Wearing Out the World?
By Julie Etra
This article updates last year’s, adding new information and taking a slightly different perspective. All of us (foreigners and Mexicans) who own property in Mexico are supposed to pay property taxes, determined by the Municipio in which one resides. The tax, called a predial, pronounced ‘pray – dee – ahl,’ is based on neighborhood, square footage of the property, improvements, and other amenities such as ocean views. Technically taxes are due the first of the year, but with the holidays (Christmas, New Year’s, and then Día de los Reyes, or Epiphany), taxes can be paid as soon as the Municipio reopens for the New Year. Continue reading Paying Your Property Taxes in Mexico
By Kary Vannice
I’m sure you remember that children’s story about the three little pigs. The one where the wolf huffs and puffs and blows their straw house down. Well, no offense to the pigs, but they used the wrong grass! There is, in fact, a grass that is just as structurally strong as the brick house that fended off that nasty wolf.
You’re probably wondering in what crazy science lab they are cooking up this new super-grass. But humans have been building structures out of it for centuries. Continue reading Bamboo: Sustainable Super Grass
By Alvin Starkman, M.A., J.D.
We didn’t have millions in the bank when we decided to retire early and move permanently to Oaxaca. But we did have some savings and we sold our Toronto residence, which gave us the option of buying a home or building one in the state capital. We opted for the latter. On the other hand, many snowbirds and expats of reasonable means elect to rent. While the rules for foreigners buying on the coast are generally different from those inland, I’ll treat it as a non-issue, something which can be explained by a competent local notary public. Continue reading Rent, Buy or Build in Oaxaca
By Julie Etra
Mexico City’s airport is fast becoming obsolete and inefficient, and being a major Latin American hub for business and tourism, the government has been painfully aware of the need for a new, modern facility for years. And having just flown through Distrito Federal (D.F., Mexico City) on my way to Huatulco, I can personally attest to this need. Although Terminal 2 is not even a decade old, the existing facility has reached capacity and planning for the new airport goes back to the administration of Vicente Fox. Statistics show that in 2012 the Benito Juárez International Airport served a record 29.5 million passengers, by far the country’s busiest airport. The facility has outgrown its location and as has occurred in many circumstances elsewhere in the world, the city has grown up and around the airport since its construction in the 1920s. With only two poorly laid out runways, simultaneous takeoffs and landings are precluded, greatly limiting service. Continue reading Plans for Mexico City’s New Airport
I knew this was going to be a different kind of day when Aome and I squashed into a four-seater pickup truck with three young engineering students from IBERO University in Mexico City. At our first stop out of town, I watched as Oaxacan workmen with muddy feet and bulging muscles sloshed through the brickyard emptying buckets of sand and dirt into the pickup. The university guys added armfuls of bricks to the truck’s load, which already included lengths of PVC tubing and shiny aluminum piping, some elbow shaped for chimneys. Continue reading Don’t Let the Smoke Get in Your Eyes