Nick Peters is co-owner of Mamasita and Hotel Jesus in Melbourne, and is a certified Mezcalier. In our May/June issue, he shared with us his strategies for introducing customers to the wonderful world of agave distillates. Here’s part two of the feature – click here for part one.
MAMASITA MEZCALIER TRAINING
I was lucky enough in 2014 to participate in a Mexican Government-accredited Mezcalier course in Oaxaca – the only person outside of North America to do so. The course was devised and run by the inimitable Doug French, an Oaxaca veteran, all-round good guy and mezcal guru, and it opened my eyes even further to the immense world of mezcal, which to me is kind of like life: the more you know, you more you realise you don’t know.
Following on from this training, Mamasita manager and mezcal aficionado Luis Herrera and I (pictured below) put together our version of formally-structured, internal Mezcalier training and trained our inaugural Mamasita Mezcaliers. The course matter was solid, and then when Luis attended a Tequila course at CRT (the Mexican Tequila Regulatory Council) last year we were able to ramp up the program again.
So what does it take to become a Mamasita Mezcalier? Once accepted, the students are guided through a number of sessions about the culture, history and processes of mezcal production. It’s romantic – families in the hills produce mezcal from plants that take over 10 years to grow, and often don’t make it to sell, but to supply to the village for religious celebrations, fiestas, weddings and funerals.
We also spend a lot of time discussing the future of agave distillates, as well as partaking in (obviously) a large number of tastings. The students are then subjected to a number of exams – there’s not a multiple choice question in sight – and a pass mark of 80% is needed to progress further through the program.
MEZCALIERS IN ACTION
We have a Mezcalier in the restaurant, dedicated to discussing all things agave seven nights a week. The Mezcalier program has been running strong for almost three years, and we’re seeing great results.
We currently have five Mezcaliers at Mamasita, one at Hotel Jesus, and two in training.
With input from our Mezcaliers at both venues we are able to offer a mezcal of the month, numerous mezcal cocktails, mezcal flights, matched drink options and packages, afternoon masterclasses, mezcal-based events, and more.
Our Mezcaliers also run staff training sessions – with sales training attached – and now the overwhelming majority of our staff feel confident enough not to have to shy away when asked about mezcal.
It took a while, but in trying to increase the awareness of this wonderful category I feel it has benefitted all involved, with our customers being the ultimate winners – which, after all, is the whole point.
Our mezcal sales are strong, and getting better every quarter. Our team of Mezcaliers are set to hit budget this year, which was set significantly higher than the last year, and the year before that.
At Mamasita our spirits category is our biggest seller, which we’re really proud of, especially given that people think of us first and foremost as a restaurant. Our backbar is amazing – come in for a drink some time! We also run training sessions every Thursday afternoon, where all are welcome.