Women In the Mezcal Industry: Barbara Sweetman

The First Time

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I first met Barbara Sweetman, Vice President of Caballeros, Inc., and International Sales Manager of Scorpion Mezcal, and now, Sierra Norte Whiskies in March 2011.

I was visiting the infamous Nightclub & Bar show in Las Vegas to report on the special edition of the Spirits of Mexico that was participating.

Doug French, Founder of Scorpion Mezcal, was on stage depicting the intricacies of distilling his unique mezcals.  I wandered over to the vendor tables that lined both sides of the narrow section reserved for the Spirits of Mexico.

Up to that point, mezcal was still somewhat of a mystery to most of us.  My only real experience was sampling them from Ron Cooper, founder of Del Maguey Single Village Mezcals.

A single woman standing behind a table shyly asked if I had ever tried Scorpion Mezcal.  When I confessed that I hadn’t, she suggested that I try their joven espadin expression.

Women In the Mezcal Industry: Barbara Sweetman http://wp.me/p3u1xi-5dL

Expecting to feel the burn and the smoky aroma of a much stronger mezcal, I was amazed at how approachable Scorpion was.  Barbara then proceeded to guide me through an entire flight of all their expressions.

That was my first sip of Scorpion Mezcal, and chances are, Barbara Sweetman handed you your first taste of Scorpion, as well.

A Mezcal Lifer

Women In the Mezcal Industry: Barbara Sweetman http://wp.me/p3u1xi-5dL

As Doug French explains in his own words…

“With Barbara’s efforts sales grew and I needed to produce more.

“This was a pattern with Barbara for the last 15 years.  Her relentless enthusiasm and determination is what took Scorpion–and the whole mezcal industry–forward into becoming a category in the USA.

“I dare say that over the last 15 years, she has single handedly given more human beings in the world their first taste of mezcal than any other person or company in the industry.

“She is also the first person to take multiple brands into all the levels of the Three Tier System so that mezcal could settle into the system as a new functional category.”

The Second Time

For only the second time (and the first time for mezcal), Tequila Aficionado presents Barbara Sweetman’s videotaped responses to our standard handful of questions for our Women In the Mezcal Industry anthology.


TA:  How would you describe your experiences as a woman in a primarily male dominated industry?  (What are the challenges you face when dealing with the male dominated Mezcal Industry?)

TA:  How have you been able to change things within the Mezcal Industry?

TA:  What do you see as the future of women working within the Mezcal Industry?

TA:  What facets of the Mezcal Industry would you like to see change?

TA:  Do you approve of how Mezcal brands are currently marketing themselves?

TA:  Is there anything you’d like to say to women who may be contemplating entering and working in the Mezcal Industry in one form or another?


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The Food & Wine Magazine Tasting by Ron Cooper

Originally Posted March 2, 2001


By Ron Cooper
Special to TequilaAficionado.com

ron cooper, del magueyAspen Colorado, June 9-11. The high mountain weather was great. This truly amazing annual event sponsored by Food & Wine Magazine is achieved with the help of hundreds of well-organized, enthusiastic volunteers from Colorado and all over the US.

There were several thousand great Wines, Sherry’s, Ports, Champagnes and Microbrews; delicious Meats, Cheeses, Breads, Coffees, Desserts; beautiful functional Tools & Equipment. Three days was insufficient to try them all under two gigantic luminous tents on the grass at Wagner Park.

The over 300 exhibitors from more than a dozen countries were joined by fifty writers, chefs, sommeliers, restauranteurs and food experts that presented an average of 10 simultaneous cooking demonstrations, educational seminars and round table discussions on food and wine graciously hosted in restaurant, hotel and public spaces throughout the town continually from 8 am to 5 pm.

Presenting Speakers:
marioMario Batali, Sissy Biggers, Bartholomew Broadbent, Derek B. Bromley, Rory Callahan, Loret Carbone, Robert Del Grande, Peter Elliot, Todd English, Bobby Flay, Claudia Flemming, Evan Goldstein, Stephen Hanson, Ursula Hermacinski, Judith Hill, Marty Horn, Andrea Immer, Steven Jenkins, Thomas Keller, Michael Klauber, Emeril Lagasse, Paul Lightfoot, Zarela Martinez, Dennis Max, Elin McCoy, Danny Meyer, Mary Ewing Mulligan, Steve Olson, Crolyn O’Neil, Claudine Pépin, Jacques Pépin, Dan Phillips, Steven Raichlen, Aaron Sanchez, David Scholefield, Stephen Scoble, Robert Simpson, Larry Stone, Mark Tarbell, Madeline Triffon, Barbara Tropp, John Frederick
Walker, Patricia Wells, Josh Wesson,

A small sampling of events:
A Taste of Texas; Australian All-Stars; Best Microbrews; Champagne Primer; Chinese – Hot and Spicy; Cult and Boutique Vintage Ports; Italy’s Rustic Reds; Que Syrah, Syrah; Mexican-Quick and Easy; Noteworthy New Zealand Wines; Portuguese Gems; Spanish Sherry’s & Tapas; The Cheese Course; The World of Pinot Noir; Ultimate Chocolate Tarts; Wines for Spicy Foods; Wines in Cyberspace; South Africa’s New Stars; Meritage: The Ultimate Blends.

And then there was Mezcal/Tequila…a first for this event. Under the entry tent was a line up of Grand Marnier, Tequila Herradura, Jimmy’s- An American Restaurant and Bar, DEL MAGUEY, Single village Mezcal and Freshies, producer of the best 100% natural drink mixes.

Peter Bock and Johnny of Libations were pouring snifters of Grand Marnier, Juan Pablo Castro, Dave Grapshi and Kevin Richards of Herradura were pouring sips and mixing margaritas, Jimmy Yeager and his totally knowledgeable bar men mixed, poured and served, accompanied by palate cleansing fresh Ahi Tuna/mango Ceveche. DEL MAGUEY was pouring “Copitas” of all five mezcals, Collin Wells and his great Freshies crew were mixing up great cocktails using their NATURAL mixes and served at least 400 Bloody Magueys (Marys) using Santo Domingo Albarradas -unbelievable taste surprise. In total the entire team served several thousand Smokin’ Margaritas over the three days under the big tent and at Jimmy’s HOT Salsa party Saturday night.

del maguey, ron cooper, mezcal

Meanwhile…on Saturday afternoon Steven Olson, President of Libations wowed overflow audiences in Jimmy’s main dining room with two back-to-back Mezcal seminars covering the history, categories and the “how” to taste subtleties of Mezcal and Tequila. Before entering the seminar everyone was served a short Smokin’ Margarita by Jimmy’s staff and volunteers. Behind the speaker’s podium, a special Zapotec weaving; “Corazon de Maguey” or heart of the Agave collected in Oaxaca by Yeager. Each group of about 120 people was treated to Olson’s inimitable rapid-fire style of humorous wit and information. So much info so little time. The tasting began with “Miel de Maguey” the sweet honey expressed from the roast maguey heart that is the raw material of all mezcals before fermentation; followed by Tequila Blanco, El Tesoro de Don Felipe (the baseline silver by which all other tequilas can be measured); Del Maguey, Single Village Mezcal, Santo Domingo Albarradas (winner of the 1999 World Spirits Championships-served in small clay cups); Sotol Reposado-Hacienda de Chihuahua (an excellent newly emerging northern mezcal made from an agave that grows wild in the Chihuahua desert); Tequila Reposado, Herradura (the delicious classic) and ending with Tequila Añejo: Paradiso, El Tesoro de Don Felipe (Oak aged in collaboration with Alain Royer, de Fussigny-France’s great Cognac maker).

Saturday evening the Hotel Jerome hosted a special dinner-buffet featuring Wine & Spirits annual Best Ten New Chefs who each presented at unique stations their special dish made for the dinner. Chef Joseph Reede of Joseph’s Table in Taos, New Mexico (U.S. home of Del Maguey) was among the
ten. The other nine:

Andrew Carellini, Café Boulud, New York City
Ted Cizma, Grace, Chicago
Andrea Curto, Wish, Miami
Loren Falsone, Empire, Providence
Tim Goodell, Aubergine, Newport Beach, CA
Michael Leviton, Lumiére, West Newton, MA
Amanda Lydon, Truc, Boston
Eric Moshier, Empire, Providence
Takashi Yagashi, Tribute, Farmington Hills, MI

New Mexico based Ron Cooper keeps himself busy producing award winning Mezcal at Del Maguey in Oaxaca, Mexico. You can find more information on these fine mezcals at www.mezcal.com



Learn all about tequila from field to glass and then get paid to share your love of agave spirits with others! Buy Them Both Now!

Mezcal Production Drawing Mexicans Back Home

Lorne Matalon reports on how Mezcal production has gone up from 100,000 gallons to 170,000 between 2010 and 2012.  Listen to (or read) his report and consider the human element when you drink mezcal.

Click here to read the article and/or listen to the audio.

del maguey, mezcal, ron cooper

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Learn all about tequila from field to glass and then get paid to share your love of agave spirits with others! Buy Them Both Now!