Travelers have long flocked to Oaxaca City for indigenous traditions, deliciously warm weather, and incredible cuisine. But these days, the city’s slow, leisurely pace belies a blossoming cultural evolution: This state capital marked by cobblestone streets and a lively central plaza is becoming an international hot spot thanks to its star export, mezcal.
In case you’ve missed it, mezcal has exploded in popularity. Americans are spending record sums on the strong, smoky spirit. You’d be hard-pressed to find a trendy cocktail menu in the U.S. without a paloma or other mezcal-infused drink. And ever since George Clooney and his partners sold their tequila and mezcal business, Casamigos, in 2017 for an estimated $1 billion, celebs have been practically tripping over themselves to get in on the action. So it’s no surprise that many Americans now want to travel to the source.
Historians believe the spirit dates to the Spanish conquest of Mexico in the 1500s, when Spaniards applied their distilling techniques to indigenous agave plants. Mezcal is made by roasting the core of agave, then fermenting and distilling the resulting mash and liquid.