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Taco Bamba Gets Into the Mezcal Biz With Its Very Own Private Label

The liquid collaboration with an Oaxacan distillery goes live at 7 Virginia locations next week

The Taco Bamba/Rey Campero collaboration mezcal will be poured neat.
Greg Powers
Tierney Plumb is the editor of Eater DC, covering all things food and drink around the nation's capital.

Ever since Taco Bamba birthed its first cocktail menu seven years ago in Vienna, Virginia, all of its high-energy bars have had the hots for mezcal. And now, the homegrown taqueria from Latin chef-owner Victor Albisu has an agave creation to call its own.

The private-label spirit, distilled by Rey Campero in Mexico’s fertile mezcal oasis of Oaxaca, will be rolled out at seven Taco Bambas across Northern Virginia starting Wednesday, November 1. Customers can saddle up to each bar to order the clear new collaboration neat or as a sidecar with any mezcal cocktail on the menu. And for at-home consumption, Virginia’s ABC liquor stores will also be stocked with limited quantities of the bottled spirit.

As part of the fermentation process, agaves were slow-roasted in a canonical earthen pit before the juice was extracted in a stone tahona mill.
Greg Powers

In search of the right mezcal flavor profile to match its wildly popular tacos and offbeat toppings, Albisu and his longtime beverage director Amin Seddiq took multiple trips over the past year to the small town of Candelaria Yegolé. It was there where they met maestro mezcalero Vicente Sanchez Parada at the generational distillery’s La Candela palenque, who guided the team through the time-intensive process of fermenting and extracting the juice — and adding water filtered from the Quiechapa river — to produce the personalized product.

The result is a 90-percent espadin, 10-percent cuishe artisanal mezcal featuring notes of roasted pineapple and light smoke with a nice citrus finish.

“We learned so much in Candela palenque about the traditions, history, and methods behind the spirit,” says Seddiq. “To now be able to work with such a phenomenal mezcalero to bring our own label home from Mexico is a dream.”

The mezcal-making palenque (platform) in Oaxaca.
Rey Campero

With two distillations in a classic copper alembic — and a few months of resting in the mountains of southern Oaxaca — the bottled mezcal is now ready for its North American debut. Taco Bamba bars in Maryland and Raleigh, N.C. will start serving it soon.

Albisu, RAMW’s 2015 Chef of the Year, is no stranger to the spirit here at home. At Penn Quarter’s Poca Madre, his inventive Mexican flagship that folded during the pandemic, the breathtaking bar led by Seddiq was stocked with a voluminous library of 90 rare mezcals infused with unique elements like cannabis and mole.

Scheduled tastings and talks about the new release will be held on various November dates (6 p.m. to 7 p.m.) at all Virginia locations serving the spirit. That excludes the Falls Church original, which doesn’t have a bar.

  • November 7 at Herndon
  • November 9 at Vienna
  • November 14 at Fairfax
  • November 16 at Springfield
  • November 21 at Landmark
  • November 28 at Shirlington
  • November 30 at Ballston

Meanwhile, Taco Bamba is gearing up for its return to D.C. after a years-long hiatus. Situated at the shiny new City Ridge complex (3900 Wisconsin Avenue NW), Taco Bamba’s 3,100-square-foot freestanding location with a big patio will be the decade-old taqueria’s largest yet. The anticipated outpost plans to debut before the end of the year, complete with pours of the new mezcal collaboration.

New Taco Bambas are also en route to two state capitals: Richmond, Virginia and Nashville, Tennessee. The latter comes with a fun backstory; as turns out, ZZ Top’s iconic rocker Billy Gibbons is a big fan of the brand and got Albisu to expand to Music City.