Agave Spirits: The Past, Present, and Future of Mezcals (Hardcover)

Agave Spirits: The Past, Present, and Future of Mezcals By Gary Paul Nabhan, Ph.D., David Suro Piñera Cover Image

Agave Spirits: The Past, Present, and Future of Mezcals (Hardcover)


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The agave plant was never destined to become tasteless, cheap tequila.

All tequilas are mezcals; all mezcals are made from agaves; and every bottle of mezcal is the remarkable result of collaborations among agave entrepreneurs, botanists, distillers, beverage distributors, bartenders, and more. How these groups come together in this “spirits world” is the subject of this fascinating new book by the acclaimed ethnobotanist Gary Paul Nabhan and the pioneering restauranteur David Suro Piñera. Join them as they delight in the diversity of the distillate agave spirits, as they endeavor to track down the more distant kin in the family of agaves, and as, along the way, they reveal the stunning innovations that have been transforming the industry around tequilas and mezcals in recent decades.

The result of the authors’ fieldwork and on-the-ground interviews with mezcaleros in eight Mexican states, Agave Spirits shows how traditional methods of mezcal production are inspiring a new generation of individuals, including women, both in and beyond the industry. And as they reach back into a rich, centuries-long history, Nabhan and Suro Piñera make clear that understanding the story behind a bottle of mezcal, more than any other drink, will not only reveal what lies ahead for the tradition—including its ability to adapt in the face of the climate crisis—but will also enrich the drinking experience for readers.

Essential reading for mezcal connoisseurs and amateurs interested in unlocking the past of a delightful distillate, Agave Spirits tells the tale of the most flavorful and memorable spirits humankind has ever sipped and savored.

Featuring twelve illustrations by René Alejandro Hernández Tapia and indices that list common and scientific names for agave species, as well as the names of plants, animals, and domesticated agaves used in the production of distillates.

Gary Paul Nabhan is a MacArthur “Genius Grant” Award–winning ethnobotanist and literary naturalist. He lives in Patagonia, Arizona.

David Suro Piñera is a restaurateur and founder of the Tequila Interchange Project. He lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Product Details ISBN: 9780393867107
ISBN-10: 0393867102
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: May 16th, 2023
Pages: 320
Language: English
Agave Spirits is a manifesto . . . [Nabhan and Suro Piñera] offer a positive spin on the future of mezcal.

— Florence Fabricant - New York Times

Mr. Nabhan, an ethnobotanist and naturalist, and Mr. Piñera, a restaurateur, serve as guides to the complex making of mezcal and lead readers through various steps in the mezcal-production process, from growing and harvesting to mashing, fermenting and distilling. But they also aim at a far-reaching overview of the precarious place in which mezcal now finds itself after an extended and harried history.
— Brian P. Kelly - Wall Street Journal

Talking about agave with Suro-Piñera is akin to discussing the Bible with the pope: His knowledge is so deep and intuitive that it draws you in, even if you consider yourself agnostic, or perhaps (shudder) more of a gin drinker.
— Maddy Sweitzer-Lammé - Food & Wine

[Agave Spirits] offers a deep look at traditional mezcal production and insight into the new generation of makers finding ways to adapt and preserve the historic spirit.

— Imbibe

With tequila booming stateside with no signs of a plateau, there’s never been a better time to learn the ins and outs of agave spirits straight from the source. To capture the history, diversity, and innovations of the centuries-old category, restaurateur, founder of Tequila Interchange Project, and VinePair Next Wave award winner, David Suro Piñera, and acclaimed ethnobotanist, Gary Paul Nabhan, journeyed to eight Mexican states and spoke with their producers. What they found and detailed will captivate agave newbies and connoisseurs alike.
— Taylore Glynn - VinePair

The craft of agave spirits is part science and part art, but always about embracing where we come from to understand where we are going. This book, as with David Suro and Gary Nabhan’s life’s work, is a true celebration of how a community’s respect for its biodiversity can create liquid magic.
— José Andrés, chef and owner, José Andrés Group and Oyamel Cocina Mexicana

Agave Spirits invites the reader to a place of wonder and learning all at the same time. It is a captivating journey into the past, present, and future of artisanal mezcals. It’s a book about Mexican history and archeology, plant botany and climate change, the promises of mezcal and its kindred spirits, with prose that leaps from the page.

— Pati Jinich, chef, author, PBS host of La Frontera and Pati's Mexican Table

With agave spirits clearly guiding, Gary Nabhan and David Suro Piñera have blended fascinating science with a loving homage to a mystical plant and the wizards who tend it and extract its juices—and a timely plan for safeguarding its native origins, so we all might keep imbibing.
— Alan Weisman, author of The World Without Us

A thoroughly fascinating dive into all that goes into the spirits, revealing an elaborate web of biological and cultural entanglements, with rich biodiversity in terms of plants, microbes, and even animals, all mediated by skilled human practitioners, carrying out (and refining) cultural traditions. The authors also show how this biodiversity as well as cultural diversity is threatened, concluding with a call to action.
— Sandor Ellix Katz, fermentation revivalist and author of Fermentation Journeys, The Art of Fermentation, and Wild Fermentation

Gary Paul Nabhan and David Suro Piñera combine years of expertise, research, and devotion to capture the artistic intricacies of an ancient drink now threatened by greed. Salud to a remarkable achievement and to the rescue of Mexico’s emblematic drink.
— Alfredo Corchado, author of Midnight in Mexico, and reporter, Dallas Morning News

A comprehensive, readable exploration of the history and science of tequila, mezcal, and other agave-derived spirits.
— Kirkus

Agave Spirits is . . . an inspiring, encyclopedic read about a complex and beguiling subject . . . . It does this book a disservice to try and summarize it in a single paragraph; rest assured this is a bravura, capstone work from two giants in their field.

— Jay Babcock - Patagonia Regional Times