It’s always surprised me that there could be any corner of the state of Oaxaca in which it could be difficult to find high quality mezcal. Indeed I am frequently asked where on the coast one can source small batch traditionally produced agave distillates. After all, Oaxaca is ground zero for mezcal production; jabalí, tepeztate, madrecuixe, tobalá, of course espadín, and a plethora of other expressions including a range of pechugas. And so when Mezcalería Gota Gorda recently opened its doors in the beach town of Zipolite, I finally had a substantive answer I could provide.

GotaGorda owner Danielle (Dani) Tatarin has been in the cocktail and spirits business for 20 years.

Yes, of late mezcal watering holes have cropped up in Puerto Escondido and Huatulco, featuring quality product. However they typically offer the same artisanal brands one can find in major centers throughout the US and to a lesser extent Canada, albeit somewhat less costly. GotaGorda is different, providing snowbirds, short-term visitors and even locals with the real deal at accessible prices.

GotaGorda owner Danielle (Dani) Tatarin has been in the cocktail and spirits business for 20 years. And for close to the past decade she has been honing her expertise in the area of mezcal, traveling dirt roads in search of rural makers whose families have been distilling for hundreds of years if not longer. Batch size of what she brings back to Zipolite, produced in both copper alembics and ancestral clay pots, ranges from 40 to 300 liters, and no more. Some of the agave is harvested from small plots under cultivation, while she also offers mezcal made from species sourced from the wild.

But Dani’s pedigree is even more impressive. The transplanted Canadian has:

  • both won and been a finalist in cocktail competitions in Mexico, Canada, France, and the US;
  • been named bartender of the year by Vancouver Magazine
  • presented as an honored guest at New Orleans’ prestigious Tales of the Cocktail
  • co-founded one of the top ten rated bars in Mexico (Acre) as well as the Cabo Cocktail Festival
  • founded one of the world’s top 100 bars (The Keefer Bar) as well as the Canadian Professional Bartenders Association over which she presided as president
  • But most recently it’s been Dani’s vision which has brought her to the Oaxacan coast. She initially planned to bring small batch high quality agave distillates to parts of the country outside of Oaxaca and into the US and Canada. Hence, with that idea in mind she founded the brand GotaGorda. Then while living in Baja California, a friend introduced her to Zipolite. When the opportunity arose to open up a mezcalería in a cool, tucked away little hidden spot, in a region surprisingly devoid of what she was interested in personally drinking, a light went off: why not bring fine ultra-premium mezcal to the area, while at the same time use the locale as a launching pad for GotaGorda? Dani was actually shocked at the lack of good small batch mezcal available on the Oaxacan coast.

    Not to mislead, the type of mezcal offered at herZipolitemezcalería is indeed available at several small bars and mezcaleríasin the city of Oaxaca. But until now spirits aficionados visiting or living on the coast have had to drive about seven hours to the state capital to find this kind of agave distillate within the context of a curated experience; but no longer.

    Mezcalería GotaGorda currently offers eight different mezcal expressions at between 70 and 180 pesos per healthy pour, or a flight of six for only 300 pesos. Drawing upon her mixology expertise, she has also developed her own recipe for an additional agave distillate, prepared with a series of herbs and bitters. Clients have been raving about it. And there are apparently more unique offerings in the works. For those who are ready to depart GotaGorda and lament about never again being able to replicate the experience, Dani offers sealed, labeled bottles of your favorites, ready to take home on the plane.

    GotaGorda also gives patrons an opportunity to sample real pulque, the fermented sap or aguamiel (honey water) from certain agave species. In pre-Hispanic times it was reserved for gods and high priests. Pulque available in retail outlets throughout the country is typically adulterated with sweetener, fruit extract, thickener and even milk or cream to create what’s known as a curado. By contrast, GotaGorda’spulque is pure, with several scientifically proven medicinal properties. It’s a product of the natural environment with nothing added.

    When visiting Dani’smezcalería you also get a lesson about pulque, and of course about mezcal. Since the locale is small and intimate, you’re able to interact one-on-one with Doña Danielle Tatarin, a treat in and of itself.

    GotaGorda is about a 45 minute drive from Huatulco, and 75 minutes from Puerto Escondido. It’s open Tuesday through Sunday 5:30 pm to midnight; CalleShambala s/n, Frente a Hotel El Noga, Col. Roca Blanca, Playa Zipolite, Pochutla 70904; cel 001 624 166 8730.

    Alvin Starkman operates Mezcal Educational Excursions of Oaxaca. Alvin has a substantial collection of both contemporary and vintage change mezcaleros.

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    Alvin Starkman

    Alvin Starkman holds an M.A. in social anthropology from Toronto's York University and a J.D. from Osgoode Hall Law School. He has written one book about mezcal (Mezcal in the Global Spirits Market: Unrivalled Complexity, Innumerable Nuances) and over 35 articles centering upon Mexican craft beer, pulque, mezcal and sustainability, as well as a further 250 articles about Oaxacan life and cultural traditions.

    From 1991 to 2004, Alvin was a frequent visitor to Oaxaca. During this period of time he became passionate about mezcal and pulque, and made one of his primary objectives in life to learn more. Then, in 2004, he became a permanent resident of Oaxaca. From that time onward and continuing to date, he has become friends with many of the growers and producers with whom he had previously had casual acquaintanceships. Feel free to ask how the revenue generated from Alvin's excursions, financially supports indigenous communities and their residents. For more, please contact Alvin at: CONTACT