Kentucky, home to America’s beloved bourbon, is about to see its very first mezcal bar. On August 18th, Frida will open it’s doors to the public and begin spouting its passion for artisanal agave spirits. And wouldn’t you know it? El Amor del Diablo is involved.
We came to Cincinnati to escape the oppressive heat and boredom that marks the summer in Todos Santos, Mexico. It seems Mayahuel had something more in mind for us. Within days of arriving we were put in touch with Paul Weckman and Emily Wolff – owners of Otto’s on Main St. in Covington – who were only weeks away from opening their new restaurant, Frida.
Weckman’s vision is to create a festive atmosphere celebrating Mexico’s deep and diverse roots through its cuisine and spirits. While hipster tacos are all the rage these days, no restaurant (with the exception, perhaps, of Mazunte) does more than scratch the surface on Mexican cuisine. And certainly, none of them offer anything in the way of fine mezcals.
One factor that makes this new establishment particularly exciting is it’s location: Covington, KY – a two-minute drive across the river from Cincinnati, Ohio. The Queen City’s foodie culture has been on the rise for the last few years, and includes a blossoming craft cocktail scene and an insatiable hunger for tacos. However, mezcal has yet to hit the bar shelves.
I’ve been told by a bartender of Bakersfield – a popular tequila and taco restaurant in OTR – the reason is due to Ohio’s liquor laws. Apparently, in order for a brand to obtain permission to sell its bottles in the state, they must have large scale production (i.e., the state wants to be able to collect a nice chunk of tax revenue, otherwise it just can’t be bothered). This, of course, is antithetical to what artisanal mezcal is all about. Hence, the only brands you’ll find on the shelf are Del Maguey’s Vida, and Monte Alban (which is yellow, though not aged, comes with a worm, and is only 80 proof – need we say more?).
That’s a big bummer for Ohio residents – and it explains why 95% of the population have no idea what mezcal is. Fortunately for Cincinnatians, Frida is about to change that. From now through mid-October, when we return to Mexico, I’ll be consulting on the Frida’s menus, training their staff on mezcal and Mexican culture, and giving tastings to educate the public on why mezcal is really the greatest spirit in the world. (No bias here, of course).
Our own mezcal is not yet ready for export, so unfortunately, El Amor del Diablo won’t be available, but we’ll be laying the ground work and creating a market for when that time arrives. And hopefully, we’ll come across a keen investor or two whilst here!
Until then, ya’ll better get yer butts over to Frida for a taste of the divine!