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by Greg Rutkowski


Mezcal Books Great For Beginners To Experts

by Greg Rutkowski

Best Mezcal Books

by Greg Rutkowski

Interested in learning more about mezcal? Not long ago, the subject of mezcal was very esoteric. Information was scarce and rife with inaccuracies, and only a marginal population even knew of the spirit’s existence outside of Mexico. Today, however, more and more information is starting to become available thanks to a handful of trailblazing authors with a wealth of knowledge about this underappreciated spirit.

Below is a comprehensive list of books about mezcal and agave spirits that I think will be worth your while. 

I tend to think of books as tools or problem solvers, and I read the following books to solve one of my biggest problems along my mezcal journey: I didn’t know the first thing about it! Yes, we’ve all been there. However, I would strongly advise newcomers along their mezcal journeys to start with the basics before taking the plunge into expert-level reading.

You will also see that I listed a few mezcal books in Spanish. This is because native speakers tend to be closer to the source material and therefore have a higher level of authority on the subject matter.  Luckily, it’s never been easier to translate books from your phone. Simply download the Google Translate app, take a photo of the page and watch the app translate the entire page for you. It only takes a few seconds!

Another great tip is to check out the reference, bibliography, or sources section of each book as there are a lot of golden nuggets waiting for you.

“Mezcal In The Global Spirits Market: Unrivaled Complexity, Innumerable Nuances” by Alvin Starkman

Books About Mezcal

1. “Mezcal In The Global Spirits Market: Unrivaled Complexity, Innumerable Nuances” by Alvin Starkman

Alvin Starkman is an Oaxacan local and a friend of mine. He also happens to be a great writer. He has written several articles for Mezcal For Life on topics such as pechuga mezcal, tasting notes, the mezcal business and conservatism in mezcal. Out of all of the mezcal writers, I think his style, his ideas, and his opinions are well-informed and a breath of fresh air for mezcal content consumers.

In this book, which is now on its third edition, Alvin takes you on a journey through the mezcal producing regions of Oaxaca, showing us why mezcal is the most complex spirit in the world. His writing in conjunction with the beautiful photos by Spike Mafford really makes you feel like you are right there at a palenque witnessing the process of distilling mezcal firsthand.

This book is for the intermediate mezcal enthusiast who already has a basic understanding of mezcal and wants to get down to the nitty gritty. I personally have read this one cover to cover at least four times. 

2. “Mezcal: Un Espirituoso Artesanal De Clase Mundial” by Domingo Garcia (Spanish)

This book is for the advanced mezcal reader If you ever wanted to learn more than thought you could possibly know about the entire mezcal process from start to finish then this book is for you.

Domingo Garcia goes above and beyond the call of duty by providing scientific studies, tables and graphs, hard to find statistics, and a reference list any mezcal nerd would die for. This book breaks down mezcal until you arrive at the spirit of the spirit.

A spectacular mezcal book for the distiller, bartender, importer, or soon-to-be brand owner.

3. “Divided Spirits: Tequila, Mezcal, and the Politics of Production” by Sarah Bowen

If you really want to flip your world upside down, this book is for you. This is one that needed to be written and, given its ramifications, I myself can’t imagine having green-lighted the publication of this book without a quiver of trepidation in my voice.

Divided Spirits is one of my favorite books because it talks about issues that nobody else is talking about. The book sheds light on several downfalls of the agave spirits industry in Mexico and really puts their sordid state of affairs into perspective.

I can’t help but to feel that this book was a passion project for Sarah, and one she wrote with both a sense of urgency and the desire to incite change..

For me this book was a big reality check that all it’s not all roses south of the border and that a long history of mistakes continue to happen to this very day, creating a vicious cycle for anyone in or near the industry. 

4. “Finding Mezcal: A Journey into the Liquid Soul of Mexico, with 40 Cocktails” by Ron Cooper

The owner of Del Maguey has created what I call his “tell-all” book about his journey into the world of mezcal. 

A book for the novice / advanced reader, this is one that you simply won’t be able to put down.

It’s fascinating how Ron takes you along with him on his journey through various regions of Oaxaca. You get to see first hand how he built his multinational brand, little by little, and then went on to forge indomitable relationships in the world of mezcal.

Because of his achievements and this book, the mezcal community is forever indebted to him. 

5. “The Mezcal Rush: Explorations in Agave Country” by Granville Greene

This book recently hit my radar as a recommendation from a friend. To be honest, the title put me off a little, as I thought it was just going to be another basic book about mezcal.

To my pleasant surprise, this book contains a lot of excellent information and sources, and it delves much deeper into the world of mezcal than most people dare to go.

From the most advanced to the most novice of mezcal enthusiasts, I think this one has a little something for everybody.

Granville lived in Oaxaca for a little more than a year, following around some of the legends of mezcal—Ron Cooper of Del Maguey, to name one—while he collected as much information as he could to write his book. 

The author is not afraid to vigorously fact check and call people out on false information, which is something any serious student of mezcal can appreciate.

This one was so good I read it faster than I can sip a copa of maguey tobala.

6. “The Native Mexican Kitchen: A Journey into Cuisine, Culture, and Mezcal” by Rachel Glueck

A lot of times when we think of culture, food and drink come to mind. This book is a written account of traditional Mexican cuisine seen through the lens of the native people of Mexico. 

If you are someone who loves to cook and wants to learn more about the culture from which mezcal was born, this book will take you on a journey through the language of food. You will also find a well-written dedicated section about Oaxaca and mezcal.

One of my favorite dishes: the pan fried mezcal prawns.

The imagery in this book is stunning and I think it more than achieves its goal of shining some light on the proud native culture of Mexico. 

7. “El Arte De Conocer, Saborear y Admirar Tequila” by Juan Bernardo Torres Mora (Spanish)

A newly acquainted friend of mine who is a certified Tequila Catador and a friend of many of the great tequila distillers wrote his own book.

I particularly like the details about the Tequila terroir, history, tour sections for visitors. 

You can catch Juan Bernardo Torres Mora interviewing master distillers through the Museum of Distilled Spirits: The Tequila Distillers

More Mezcal Books For Beginners

Below is a list of mezcal books that absolute beginners should start with. 

8. Mezcal: The History, Craft & Cocktails of the World’s Ultimate Artisanal Spirit by Emma Janzen

9. The Mezcal Experience: A Field Guide to the World's Best Mezcals and Agave Spirits by Tom Bullock

10. Holy Smoke! It's Mezcal! by John McEvoy

11. Understanding Mezcal by James Schroeder

Greg Rutkowski, President Mezcal For Life

Greg Rutkowski, President of Mezcal For Life

Greg is a certified Agave Spirits Advisor and Mezcal Sommelier through the Agave Spirits Institute. He contributes to a number of agave spirits projects inside Mexico including Raicilla tours and also his agave spirits distillery in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco.


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