Top Bartender Ivy Mix’s Current Obsession: Mezonte Agave Spirits
The award-winning bartender and co-owner of Brooklyn’s Leyenda bar, can’t get enough of these rare Mexican spirits.
No one would blame you for missing the single prized bottle of Mezonte on the crowded shelves of Brooklyn’s acclaimed agave-themed bar Leyenda. But it’s there nestled in among the dozens of bottles of other more well-known mezcals.
Award-winning bartender and the establishment’s co-owner Ivy Mix, first got her hands on a bottle of Mezonte six or seven years ago. Since then Mix has gone through several—but she even saves all of the empties, which now decorate her apartment.
“We had a bottle on the back bar before you could get it here and one out of 1,000 people would be like, ‘whoa, Mezonte,’” says Mix. “Back in the day when you couldn’t import it, it was like a Boy Scout badge.”
The Mezonte brand currently includes three different agave spirits made in the Mexican states of Jalisco and Michoacán: Japo Raicilla, Jalisco Mezcal, and, Mix’s favorite, Tepe Agave Spirit. A single bottle goes for between $150 and $200—and for good reason.
“They’re all really delicious and can be really wacky [in flavor],” says Mix. The palenques where they’re made are “hundreds of years old. I went to one place where they just have these massive pits in the ground that they still use for their fermentation. The fermentation is long, which generally means that you’ll get lots of funk, which is natural. They just let it happen with the heat and the high sugars of the agave.”
It’s these kind of traditional production methods that make Mezonte somewhat of a unicorn for super fans of agave spirits.
Mezonte is actually an NGO owned by Pedro Jiménez, who also runs a tasting room in Guadalajara under the same name and the nearby beloved mezcaleria Pare de Sufrir (translation: “End Your Suffering”), which Mix calls her “favorite bar in the whole wide world, hands down, bar none.”
Jiménez works with small, distillers that use the most traditional of methods and tools for fermentation and distillation. According to Mezonte’s official mission, it “promotes, supports and preserves the production and practices of traditional agave spirits.” To that end, Jiménez directed Viva Mezcal, a documentary released in 2012 that explores the history of mezcal culture in Mexico, as well as the challenges producers currently face.
“Pedro really fights for everything that should be happening in agave spirits,” says Mix. “He has a really big cultural interest in preserving and supporting these spirits and the people who make them, as well as their cultures.”
Over the summer, Mix made the trip to Guadalajara to attend the 10-year anniversary of Pare de Sufrir and celebrate alongside Jiménez. She brought back a bottle of Mezonte Tepe Agave Spirit to add to her personal collection. It’s made from 100-percent Cenizo agave grown along the border of Jalisco and Durango.
“It’s more delicate, more minerally,” says Mix, adding that the spirit is distilled in clay pot stills. “I’ve never seen Tepe production, but everything really is off the grid. They’re doing things their own way and I think that is still rare to find with mezcal production.”
Though Tepe is now her go-to bottle, Mix is an equal opportunity Mezonte drinker—and encourages others to be as well. She contends that the Japo Raicilla, which is made near the sea in Jalisco, is “very intense even for people who like really weird spirits” with flavors that are cheesy, gamey, and even a bit floral.
If you’re curious and able to pay Mix a visit, she currently has the trio of Mezonte spirits behind the bar at Leyenda. “This stuff is so rare that our margins on it are pretty low just because we want people to taste it,” she says. “I love cocktails, don’t get me wrong, but these are totally what you want to drink neat because they’re super delicious.”