The Tasting Panel magazine

November 2014

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52  /  the tasting panel  / november 2014 WHAT WE'RE DRINKING THE DARKER SIDE OF EL SILENCIO by Jonathan Cristaldi / photos by Dustin Downing E l Silencio partners Fausto Zapata and Vincente Cisneros were destined to make mezcal. Both men are natives of Mexico City and have fond memories of visiting mezcal distilleries in Oaxaca in their youth. They met in the U.S. at a pre-school where each had a son attending, and realized a similar passion for mez- cal. Upon discovering a mutual interest to produce one, a quick rapport developed, and they realized it would be smart to join forces. Just over a year old, the company now employs a small team to work out of modest, sleek offices inSanta Monica, CA. Their flagship white label Joven (which will soon be re-labeled as El Silencio Ensamble) has become a favorite of bartenders, who praise its broad appeal and bold flavors. "We designed a mezcal that could be versatile, tasty and high quality on its own, while also great for mixing," says Cisneros. It's so good that many bartenders, despite its SRP of $75–80—and some- times against their managers' wishes—have taken to using it as their well mezcal. Realizing there was a clear demand for a mezcal of similar quality, but at a price point that wouldn't have bar managers cringing, Cisneros and Zapata decided to cross over to the dark side, so-to-speak. In the last week of September, they introduced black label 86-proof El Sliencio Espadin Mezcal that comes in an opaque black bottle (SRP $35–40). With a name that refers to the single-agave species it is made from, the mezcal is clear with solid white accents, aromas of smoke, ash and baking spices, with roasted fig, sweet potatoes and charred stone fruit notes. According to Cisneros, both mezcals share a common thread: versatility. "The white bottle is a sipping mezcal that mixes flawlessly, and the black bottle is a mixing mezcal that sips flawlessly," he says. Similarly, El Silencio is built on the principles of balance and versatility—a key to its success. Brand Ambassadors Marcos Tello and Aidan Demarest complement each other in the same way Zapata and Cisneros do—each bringing different strengths to the table, which translates to a win-win for the brand. "Marcos is kind of the right brain and Aidan the left," explains Zapata. "Marcos really understands the cocktail movement and how it filters through the industry, while Aidan brings that passionate lifestyle and fun—he lights a room on fire." As for the future of the category, Zapata believes a cocktail menu is not complete these days without having a mezcal "on the line," and he sees El Silencio as a champion of the spirit. "What makes mezcal so layered is there's always a variety of expressions," he says, "and as we expand, we'll do everything we can to help build out the category." Well-Made Mezcal Fausto Zapata is photographed at the El Silencio offices in Santa Monica, CA. San Balthazar Summer ◗ 2 oz. El Silencio Espadín (Black Bottle) ◗ ¾ oz. agave ◗ ¾ oz. fresh lime juice ◗ 1 oz. watermelon juice ◗ 2 jalapeño slices ◗ 3 cilantro sprigs ◗ In a mixing vessel, combine all ingredients, except the El Silencio, and muddle thoroughly. Add ice and El Silencio, shake and then strain into an ice-filled large rocks glass. Garnish with watermelon cubes, chili salt and cilantro sprigs. PHOTO: RODOLFO MICHEL

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