The consumable is political: sustainability and politics
Like any good liberal education, a mezcal curriculum also includes some hard lessons, the most pressing issue being sustainability. It’s a familiar Catch 22: demand is outpacing supply; as the market grows, it fuels its own end. Agave takes an awful long time to mature, and mezcal takes a long time to produce. Meanwhile, consumers clamor for more. “It’s really tough. The situation is currently unsustainable,” Schroeder admits. “If you’re drinking espadín, you’re probably OK,” but, say, agave tobalá, a rarer, small-sized species that yields little and takes longer to mature, is another story. Diligent reforestation will remain crucial.
Sustainability may also feed another, more local political concern: the racial dynamic as mezcal is popping up in affluent, trendy neighborhoods. Of course, the food and beverage world is rife with ambassadors like Andy Ricker and Chicago’s own Rick Bayless, and the accepted bar generally works: honor one’s adopted ethnic fare, by way of authenticity or innovation, and the result is advocacy rather than exploitation. But mezcal’s long-term viability predicament might complicate that metric. Add the fact that some mezcalerias are opening in gentrifying areas that have witnessed steep Hispanic population declines, and this one suddenly feels trickier.