The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Properly Sauced: Del Maguey Mezcal Vida

By Roger Kamholz in Food on Jan 11, 2011 7:20PM

2011_1_delmaguey_vida.jpgIn May 2010, Topolobampo hosted the release party for Del Maguey Mezcal Vida, the latest offering from the renowned brand of Oaxacan Mezcals. Vida de San Luis del Rio, as its full name goes, has since become a darling of the Chicago bar scene. Vida is starring in a number of hit drinks right now; Big Star's Oaxaca Vieja, Violet Hour's Heads You Lose, the Drawing Room's Los Muertos and WaterShed's Italian Hurricane (which we recently reviewed) are just a few examples.

That each of these bars has crafted a drastically different cocktail using Vida should be a strong indication of its versatility. (Consider that Big Star has paired it with Angostura and chocolate bitters, while the Drawing Room is mixing Vida with Cointreau, Lillet Blanc and North Shore Distillery's Sirène Absinthe.) Like other Del Maguey Mezcals, Vida packs a tantalizing smokiness, which adds complexity to pretty much anything it touches.

We decided to investigate Vida in its own right and procured a bottle at the Grand Avenue Binny's in River North ($39 plus tax). For anyone who's shelled out for Del Maguey's premium Mezals, like Minero, Chichicapa and the rare Tobalá, that price tag is a gift from the agave gods. (Their names allude to the Oaxacan villages in which they were made.)

Under inspection, Vida was pleasingly fragrant on the nose and nearly colorless to the eye. We sampled ours from a slender shot glass that we chilled beforehand; swirl it a bit and Vida will display its nice legs. With a sip comes a rush of smoke, heat, pepper and tobacco. Vida is bold but not at all bracing. In fact, at 84 proof it's noticeably more restrained than other Del Maguey products. Our bottle of Minero, which we've been clinging to for years now, has a hand-written ABV of 49.1 percent. In comparison, Vida seems mellower when drunk neat. (We predict that becoming our method of choice at home.) Not to mention, the stuff is like velvet on the palate - syrupy, almost chewy. You'll find yourself wanting to swish it around for awhile and get acquainted with each and every sip. If you're new to the world of Mezcal, approachable, affordable Vida is your ticket in.

For signature recipes using Del Maguey Mezcals, click here.