The boom of wonderful tequila available in Los Angeles has taught us to worship at the foot of the blue agave plant, venerating the soils of Jalisco above all others.
But the extensive array of mezcals Bricia Lopez has collected over the past few months at Guelaguetza's newly remodeled bar has us questioning our previously learned lessons.
As our drunkenly scribbled notes on Zapotec maguey varieties suggest, sticking to blue agave is like experiencing the world of wine through just one grape.
Espadin is the most commonly cultivated maguey in Oaxaca, and espadin mezcals like La Puritita Verda ($9) are an ideal smoky entry point. But the diverse wild maguey varieties that account for a quarter of Guelaguetza's selection are where the bottlings get truly fascinating.
Wild maguey has far more inherent flavor than domesticated varieties, allowing these mezcals to flaunt the plant's own character. Pierde Almas' tobaziche bottling ($21) has a salty, earthy flavor and a long finish that belies its strength, while the Fidencio madrecuixe ($18) has a Retsina-like flavor that's spiced with cinnamon.
For a three-shot introduction to wild maguey mezcals, order the Mezcólatra flight ($18).
Guelaguetza, 3014 W. Olympic Blvd., Koreatown; 213-427-0608 or guelaguetzarestaurante.com