Erick Rodriguez is considered by many to be “the Indiana Jones of mezcal,” meaning that the Mexico City native scours the Mexican countryside in search of artisanal producers to showcase under his brand Almamezcalera.
He comes to Santa Barbara this weekend to share sips and support City Council candidate Alejandra Gutierrez, who is running to represent the Eastside district.
Rodriguez answered a few questions for us this week about the increasingly popular mezcal market and what to expect on Saturday.
When did you get into the mezcal trade?
I’ve been in the agave spirits industry for 22 years. I began with Casa Tradicion by Clase Azul as the first brand ambassador and then started my own brand, Almamezcalera, in 2007.
How has the market changed since you began?
With my brand, in terms of how mezcal is produced, nothing has changed. We respect the traditions found in every community. We are still using traditional methods that have been passed along from generations to generations.
But in general, due to the increased popularity of mezcal, I’ve noticed there have been aggressive production methods being used with agaves, which have for instance, caused the extinction of some species of agave.
What are some of the major challenges for this artisanal industry to grow and survive?
There are three major categories when production mezcal: mezcal industrial, mezcal artisanal, and mezcal ancestral/tradicional. The challenges come from companies not respecting the traditions of producing mezcal, but focusing on making money. Mezcal is not meant to be mass-produced. It’s not just a spirit you drink, but it’s part of the culture and tradition of Mexico. You can find native tastes, aromas, and textures by region.
How do you know Alejandra?
We met through a mutual friend, a native of Mexico City, currently residing in Santa Barbara.
Why are you supporting her in her campaign for city council?
It was clear from our first introduction that Alejandra has the compassion and heart to make sure that all residents are safe, healthy, and thriving. She’s a problem solver who isn’t afraid to roll up her sleeves to help people. I think these are great qualities in a public servant asking to represent the City of Santa Barbara. She’s also really fun, easy to talk to, and likable, which are good qualities for any job.
What can guests expect on Saturday?
With our mezcal tasting, I will be sharing some of the knowledge and history I have learned from my master distillers in different states. And hopefully I will help people see that mezcal is not a smoky spirit, but that it has many distinct flavor profiles, depending on the region it was produced.
4•1•1 | Erick Rodriguez will be pouring his Almamezcalera mezcal on Saturday, August 3, 2-4 p.m., at Arnoldi’s Cafe (600 Olive St.) as a fundraiser for Santa Barbara City Council candidate Alejandra Gutierrez. Tickets are $200. See alejandra4sb.com.