- interview by Sara Gorelick
Sara chatted with Stephen Myers, the aptly-titled "Fixer" over at Ilegal Mezcal. With a bright personality, warm smile and colorful history, Steve's story is one to be savored, just like his Mezcal.
SG: Who are you and what do you do?
Stephen: I am one of the owners of Ilegal Mezcal. The best way to describe my role would as "a jack of all and master of none." The title on my business card is "Fixer" and that pretty much sums up what I do. Global Brand Ambassador and all that encompasses is one hat that I wear, yet I am also involved with everything from coordinating with importers and distributors, to working with both primary and secondary supply chains and all that goes with developing a small liquor business.
SG: How'd this happen?
Stephen: As one of the founders of Ilegal, I, after a series of at times ludicrous events; managing volunteer programs in Costa Rica, having about $10,000 stolen from a bank account, managing a bar in Antigua Guatemala (cafenose.com), smuggling Mezcal across the Mexico/Guatemala boarder with the owner of Cafe No Se and developing Ilegal with him, I landed the plumb job of "Fixer."
SG: How'd you get started in this little world?
Stephen: I started in the industry as a Uni student who needed some beer money and I was fortunate enough to get a job at a pub through the rugby club I played with at the time.
SG: When did your love affair with agave begin?
Stephen: I have always been a fan of agave. The turning point however was when I went into the Mezcal bar in Cafe No Se and saw what was on the shelves. I think I involuntarily said "Oh dear me," smiled and pulled up a seat at the bar. In all honesty it was at this point I knew there was no turning back. It was also here that I was able to expand both my appreciation and knowledge of agave based spirits, specifically Mezcal.
SG: What are you working on?
Stephen: At present my role is a Global Brand Ambassador-type position with Ilegal Mezcal. That said I am involved in all areas of operations for Ilegal. I am fortunate to be able to present classes, training sessions, tastings and also be involved in the production and brand development areas of Ilegal. I am also able to travel and see what bartenders around the globe are able to do with Ilegal.
SG: If you are not drinking Mezcal, what's your next favorite spirit?
Stephen: I would not say I have a favourite spirit outside Mezcal. I thoroughly enjoy sipping on a well crafted cocktail no matter what the spirit equally as much as I enjoy a good wine or beer. Most importantly for me it is the company no matter what side of the bar they are on when I have a drink (or two).
SG: Go-to drink. Go.
Stephen: My go-to drink is a shot of Ilegal Joven and a cold beer (usually in a can). It is great anytime whether it be a sunny afternoon or as a nightcap.
SG: Tell me something new about you.
Stephen: Something that you may not know about me.... is that I played rugby for the Guatemalan national team.
SG: What do you find most challenging about your job? Most important?
Stephen: The most important and challenging part of my job is the education component of what I do. Mezcal at present is a relatively small category, thus there is a large percentage of people who know little or nothing about Mezcal. We, as a category, are still in the process of over coming misconceptions such as that all Mezcal has a worm in it, and that all Mezcal is very smoky. The history, cultural significance and production of Mezcal is a fascinating story. Education needs to be interesting, entertaining and true to the nature of Mezcal. To combine all these in order to present Mezcal in the best possible light can be a challenge, especially when tailoring it to certain audiences. Education is also the most rewarding aspect when you see people new to Mezcal understanding, appreciating and enjoying Mezcal all the while having learned something new.