Up in Mezcal Smoke.
That would probably be a good name for Cheech Marin’s next movie, as the iconic 69-year-old actor, director, comedian, and author has recently launched Tres Papalote, his own line of mezcal. Is it a coincidence that he chose one of the smokiest liquors on the planet for the job? Of course not.
The triple-distilled mezcal sourced exclusively from wild cupreata agaves in Guerrero, Mexico clocks in at a smooth 46-percent alcohol. It will join the rest of the non-Oaxacan mezcals like bacanora, sotol, and raicilla that have been popping up in the American market over the last few years. (A mezcal must be from the states of Durango, Guerrero, Guanajuato, Michoacán, Oaxaca, San Luis Potosí, Tamaulipas, and Zacatecas in order for it to be legally labeled as a mezcal.)
The art adorning the bottle—inspired by the Mexican glass sculptural art of the De La Torres brothers—is just as complex as the actual mezcal inside of it. This is hardly a surprise for Cheech, especially when you consider that he is one of the biggest collectors of Chicano art.
MUNCHIES sat down with Cheech at his home overlooking the Pacific ocean to eat tacos, to compare mezcal and tequila, and to answer that age-old question: Does he still puff away quarter pounder-sized joints?
MUNCHIES: Hi, Cheech. Why did you choose mezcal over any other spirit?
Cheech Marin: You know, I think mezcal was underrepresented. Everyone used to have a false picture of what it was. Everyone used to think that it tasted like gasoline with a worm in it. As soon as the first time I tried it, I knew it was a very cool drink. I just thought it was underrepresented, kind of like Chicano art. I always like to root for the underdog.
You’ve come a long way from Up in Smoke. Did you ever imagine yourself getting in the mezcal business?
Not at all. I hardly ever drank back when I was younger. I drink a lot more now, actually. I just really like the flavor of mezcal. I don’t drink it so much to get drunk but just to enjoy the flavor. It is great when mixed in cocktails with things like chile and lime, and it is also great to sip on its own.
When did you first taste mezcal?
It was four years ago. I was with my distributor. He told me, “I want to make something with you.” The first thought was a tequila, since I love tequila, but we thought that field was too crowded already. So I said, “Let’s try a mezcal.” So we went to Rivera restaurant and tried a bunch there. John Sedlar was one of the first chefs who turned me on to estate-bottled mezcal.
How would you describe the flavor of Tres Papalote?
It has a real spirited taste. It is really distinctive because of that smoky flavor that it has. You don’t get a lot of drinks that are smoky. It pairs well with a lot of foods, especially Mexican food. I was at Broken Spanish the other day and it goes well with everything there.
Again, mezcal is like Chicano art. You can’t love it or hate it unless you try it, and a lot of people still have not tried it. I want to change that.
How did you choose the art for your bottle?
It’s from one of the De La Torre brothers pieces that I have in my house. I just thought it was crazy-looking thing and wanted something eye-catching for the bottle. I wanted something different than what I’ve usually seen [on] other mezcal bottles.
Have you been both drunk off your mezcal and high at the same time yet?
Why yes, I have. Funny you should ask.
What is that feeling like?
They’re both mellow and good. I like them both.
Do you recommend a particular strain of weed to pair with your mezcal?
Sure. I have a line of weed coming out soon. It will be my private stash and I will have a bunch of different strains. We have this one strain that we are working [on] with a grower in Arizona called Dusted Nugz. We boil down shake and other things that fall off the plant and then spray it with this stuff, and shhhhhoooyehhh—it gets you.
I recommend that. It is like the Cognac of weed.
Thank you for speaking with me.