If you step into a cool cocktail bar today, chances are they have drinks made from mezcal, a Mexican spirit with an intense, roasted, smoky flavor. But just a decade ago, barely anyone in America had heard of it. You could call it the hot new thing in bartending, except that it’s hundreds of years old. And in Oaxaca, it’s much more than that. Bricia Lopez, who’s been called the Mezcal Queen of Los Angeles, is the owner, with her family, of Guelaguetza restaurant in Los Angeles. She talked with Francis Lam about the cultural and spiritual importance that mezcal plays in Oaxaca. Try her recipe for the mezcal cocktail Pasión de Oaxaca from her book Oaxaca: Home Cooking From the Heart of Mexico.

Bricia Lopez, outside of her family restaurant Guelaguetza in Los Angeles. Photo provided by Guelaguetza

Francis Lam

Francis Lam is the host of The Splendid Table. He is the former Eat columnist for The New York Times Magazine and is Editor-at-Large at Clarkson Potter. He graduated first in his class at the Culinary Institute of America and has written for numerous publications. Lam lives with his family in New York City.