Mezcal: Ancient Spirit

They say, “Champagne is for the rich, Fortuna Mezcal is for the wise”.

Amidst growing popularity with Toronto’s mixologists, Fortuna Week arrived this past February showcasing different “Mezcal experiences” across Toronto. Reposado Bar on Ossington St. presented a “Fortuna Saloon Master Class” with Maestro Mezcalero Ignacio Martínez delivered in Zapotecan and translated into English.

Reposado is tequila aged in oak between two months and one year. In Spanish, it literally means, “rested”, and it is here at Reposado where we can sidle up to the bar and taste the most extensive selection of pure tequila in Toronto, as well as mezcal cocktails.

Within an adjacent room, sweetly incensed and candlelit, we are seated and presented a range of hand-crafted Fortuna Mezcal. Mezcal, or “cooked agave”, is a Mexican spirit produced in Oaxaca. Tequila is a type of Mezcal, but a major difference begins before distillation when tequila is steamed, while mezcal is roasted in an underground pit. The roasting gives it a smoky flavor like a Single Malt Scotch or a Lapsang Souchong tea.

Martínez shares with us the patient and meticulous process of his family’s facility in San Dionisio Ocotepec, Oaxaca. His agave plants require 8 to 12 years of growth before harvesting. The hearts of the plants are then roasted in a deep pit of earth for three days, after which point a horse-turned stone wheel mashes these “piñas” to a pulp. Left to ferment in wooden barrels, the liquid is then double-distilled in copper pots and bottled.

Rustic but refined, the mescal to which we are treated is well balanced and exudes warmth, smoke, and an herbaceous, slightly citric essence. In traditional ritualistic fashion we drink the mezcal with sliced oranges sprinkled with “fire salt” —worms from the agave plant that are harvested and roasted in the oven, and then mashed up with rock salt and red chili powder. “Why worms?” I ask. The worm, sometimes found in the bottle, gives a slightly more fatty flavour.

We sample a range of pure, organic, crystalline spirit. The higher the alcohol, the stronger the colour and flavour. As we go up in percentage, the liquid becomes darker and golden. It can also been enjoyed in cocktails, of course, and in addition to Reposado, The Harbord Room on Harbord St. lays claim to the winning cocktail at the first ever Mezcal Cocktail Competition in Canada, held at The Drake Hotel. (See Fortuna Cocktail Recipes Here).

We are happy to hear that $1 from every bottle sold goes to the Fortune Foundation which funds sustainable techniques for ecological production methods to protect the ancestral land and the surrounding nature. Cheers, in Zapotecan, is “Stichebeu!

For more about Fortuna Mezcal, go to

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *