“Oh my God! Adrian Grenier is coming in!”
The staff at Frida were twittering away about some somebody who would soon be entering the mezcal bar.
“Who?” I asked.
“Adrian Grenier. You know…Vincent Chase from the HBO show, Entourage! Apparently he loves mezcal.”
Entourage. It sounded vaguely familiar. I haven’t owned a TV my entire adult life, so I generally don’t have a clue who or what people are talking about when it comes to pop culture. But cool. Somebody famous coming to Frida in only our second month open.
When it comes to the general population, I start everyone out on the same page by assuming they’re decent humans until they prove otherwise. My strategy for famous people is reversed: I assume they’re douche bags until they show themselves to be decent humans. Whether or not this is fair, it’s served me well: I don’t loose my head (or my sense of reality) simply because I’m in the presence of a someone. Adrian was off to a good start, though: he likes mezcal. I like people who like mezcal.
I didn’t speak much with Adrian that night, and I thought nothing more about it. Until he emailed me a month after asking me about our project. Paul Weckman, owner of Frida, had given him a bottle of Amor del Diablo. He loved it. He also loved that we were working with small mezcaleros and aiming to support mezcalero communities.
Three months later Noel and I were picking up Adrian Grenier and his friend/business partner, Ken Howery, at the airport in Acapulco. Typically, when someone wants to get to know mezcal more intimately, they head to Oaxaca: the Mezcal Mecca, so we were pretty pleased that he was taking the time to visit Guerrero. Not to mention the risk. Acapulco was named the third most violent city in the world. But with Noel as our guide – a native Guerrerense with an eye for trouble and an ability to charm the pants off even the most hardened officer – it was smooth sailing.
We visited two mezcaleros, where Ken and Adrian were able to see, for the first time, how mezcal is made: from earthen pit to barrel fermentation to copper still distillation. The first family we visited was proud to show us their own palenque – last year when we met them they’d been renting a location to distill their mezcal. They emphasized how thoroughly they cleaned all of the equipment, and it was because of this that the taste of the agave was so apparent – so green! – in their mezcal. (And so damn delicious, that I’ve just had to pause in writing this to pour myself a copita. At 11:30am. Aaaaahhh!).
The second mezcalero we visited had recently won a competition for best mezcal out of 47 contestants in Chilpancingo. He was distilling when we pulled up (unannounced), and poured us glasses straight from the alembic – still warm! This one hit at 55% ABV, but was so sweet and smooth. Easily recognizable as a papalote, yet so very different from the other mezcalero’s.
After drinking copious amounts of mezcal, sharing the best meals Guerrero has to offer, from fish at a beach shack, to puerco enguajado in the Tixtla mercado, to Thai-Mexican fusion at Zibu in Acapulco, and hours of philosophizing on social entrepreneurship, I was happy to discover that these two gents were down-to-earth, fun to talk with, and really interesting! It was a pleasure sharing the hidden gems of Guerrero with them.
Ken Howery and Adrian Grenier pose for a photo with Noel and a mezcalero family in Guerrero.
Ken Howery, Rachel Glueck, mezcalero Zacharias, and Adrian Grenier.
Papalote growing on the side of the highway. Guerrero.
Adrian Grenier and Ken Howery float their way back to the car after drinking copious amounts of 55% mezcal straight from the still. (Carrying, of course, their mandatory 2-liter plastic bottles of soul juice).