Las Perlas — the nation’s first mezcal bar — opened in March 2010 in the historic Sante Fe building at Sixth & Main in Los Angeles’ lively Downtown neighborhood. This Oaxacan style cantina exists as a living tribute to Mexico’s native spirit, mezcal, with the finest selection of more than 120 premium agave spirits available in the United States. Las Perlas cocktails arrive garnished with everything from wild hibiscus flowers to the Oaxacan delicacy of spicy, roasted chapulinas, while also offering Mexican cervezas alongside local craft brews on tap and in bottles.
Mezcal is the oldest distilled spirit in North America. Mezcal can only be distilled in Mexico and comes from the agave plant, also known as maguey.
Tequila, which is distilled from blue agave is technically a type of mezcal. The agave plant is a member of the Lily family and not a cactus. Mezcal can legally be made from 28 different varieties of agave. Each type of agave is distinct and most are not commercially available in the United States.
In Southern Mexican Villages (particularly in the State of Oaxaca) there is a high reverence for this magical liquid and its ceremonial, social and medicinal uses. There is tremendous pride in mezcal’s power and its rich, smoky, sweet body.
Mezcals are distilled from the hearts of the agave plant. A palanquero, or agave producer, extracts the piña, or heart of the agave, which is quartered, then baked in underground ovens, then crushed and finally fermented.
Tequila and mezcal are both made from agave. All tequilas are mezcal, but not all mezcals are tequilas. Tequila was first produced in the late 18th Century when Jose Cuervo applied to the Spanish government for a permit to make “Mezcal de Tequila”.
Plata (sotol & tequila) or Blanco (tequila) or Joven/Puro (mezcal) = freshly distilled and clear in color.
Reposado = rested in oak for less than a year.
Anejo = aged 1 year or longer in oak.
Mezcal can legally be produced in 7 states in Southern Mexico- the biggest producing State being Oaxaca. Tequila can legally be produced in 6-7 states in Northern Mexico, the biggest producing State being Jalisco. Mezcal is smokier tasting than Tequila. Mezcal is produced in small batches, roasting the agave in an earth oven. Tequila is typically made in large industrial batches, and is steamed, not roasted so there is a lack of the smokey complex flavor associated with mezcal.
Las Perlas serves mezcal and tequila produced at distilleries in four States within Mexico: Oaxaca(mezcal), Chihuahua(mezcal), Jalisco (tequila) and Tamaulipas (tequila). Within Oaxaca there are multiple small villages that make the best and purest mezcal that we have tasted. As more mezcal becomes commercially available in the United States we will carry many more products from small village and artisanal producers within multiple regions of Mexico.
Down in Mexico, spirit experts test the purest mezcal by looking for ‘las perlas’, or the pearls, a type of foam that forms when shaking the spirit slightly. While traveling in Oaxaca, Cedd and Raul, decided to name the bar Las Perlas in honor of the quality and beautiful pearls produced when shaking this magical spirit.
The small-batch artisan-crafted mezcals and tequilas served at Las Perlas–considered the finest in the world–reflect extraordinary quality, purity and nuance.
Yup, in pre-Columbian Mexico she’s called Mayahuel, and one of her children is called Centzon Totochtin (400 Rabbits to you gringos) who’s considered responsible for drunkenness. So there, now you know who to blame.
Adding a gusano, or worm to mezcal is a marketing sham created years ago to sell inferior, mass produced mezcal to unsuspecting tourists and American consumers. Since Las Perlas not only respects mezcal, but also its clientele, it refuses to sell such swill.
The ritual toast for mezcal reflects the ancient beliefs that still cling to its use:
Arriba (above), abajo (below), al centro (the center), para dentro ( for within)…