Los Magos Sotol, a Mexican spirit gaining popularity throughout the United States, has entered the Ohio market and is now available at establishments in the Dayton area.
“Los Magos entering Ohio’s market is a milestone for both the brand and the state, but also personally,” said Los Magos CEO Ryan Stock. “A native to Ohio, it is definitely a career highlight for Los Magos to be the first and only sotol offered in the state where I was born and raised.”
Credit: Submitted Photo
Credit: Submitted Photo
Stock’s journey to Los Magos
Stock graduated from Centerville High School in 2006. He got his first taste in the food and beverage industry by working at Dorothy Lane Market, The Chop House, Champps and the Yankee Trace Country Club. He went on to attend Kendall College Culinary & Hospitality School in Chicago where he said he had the opportunity to work at some of the best places in the city.
“After culinary school, even though I thought I wanted to be a chef, I ended up not going that route,” Stock said.
He thought he was a better fit in the front of the house where the focus was on the management and business aspect of the food, beverage and hotel industry. Although he noted he missed the creative aspect of culinary, he got his hands dirty by being involved in bar programming. At 22, he moved to Las Vegas where he continued to be involved in management and bar programs.
It wasn’t until he was working for Gordon Ramsay in Los Angeles that he became friends with Alejandro Laguette, originally from Chihuahua, Mexico. On a visit to Laguette’s hometown, he experienced his first taste of sotol (pronounced “so-TOLL”).
“While we’re there, I’m expecting... we’re going to be drinking margaritas and lots of tequila. (On) the contrary, while they did have tequila, they had something else I had never seen or heard of before,” Stock recalled.
Sotol is a spirit distilled from the sotol plant (also known as dasylirion plant) that grows wild in the Chihuahuan Desert of northern Mexico.
“Sotol has been produced there for hundreds of years,” said Stock. " While it’s probably not really something that’s able to be totally documented, sotol was very much the first spirit being distilled in what is now modern day Mexico. It was being produced well before tequila and mezcal.”
When Stock returned to the states, he wanted to add sotol to his bar program, but realized there was none available.
At first, he said he spoke to sotol producers to try to figure out how he could get the spirit into his bar program. However, due to many Chihuahua natives making their own personal batches, the conversation shifted to the possibility of starting his own brand.
Laguette was the link that connected Stock with Juan Pablo Carvajal, a Chihuahua native who founded Los Magos with Eduardo Almanza, Stock and Brian Hart.
“From the beginning, the mission of Los Magos has been to help shape the sotol industry by driving innovation and best practices through our vision of sharing a centuries-old tradition through a modern artisanal approach with a contemporary audience in mind,” said Carvajal.
History of sotol
According to Los Magos’ website, Sotol was a staple in the 800s by the Ancestral Puebloans, who used it as a source for food, fiber, construction material and fermented it into alcoholic beverages for ritual purposes. Hundreds of years later the Chihuahuan indigenous people fermented sotal juice into a beer-like beverage and then the Spanish colonists introduced European distillation techniques.
In the 1920s, the commercial production of sotol in Mexico was declared illegal and the spirit was almost driven to extinction. It wasn’t until the 1990s that Mexico legalized sotol and artisans began to increase production and distribution.
Stock believes the legalization of commercial production played a role in why people are still making their own personal batches verses selling sotol nationwide.
Los Magos strives to produce the best product they can in the most natural, organic and artisanal way, Stock said. The plant itself is a perennial. Only part of it is harvested, leaving the entire root system in the ground to regrow. They also use an open-air fermentation process instead of using commercial additives.
In addition to ensuring the processes to make sotol are sustainable, Stock said they present the product in bottles made out of recycled glass.
“Los Magos is the only sotol on the market that is triple distilled and while producing a lower yield this process allows the sotol to show its most distinctive aromas and flavors and takes out the alcoholic bite that is often experienced with tequilas and mezcals,” noted the company’s website.
Taste of sotol
Los Magos Sotol Blanco features complex notes of citrus, black pepper, light smoke, honey and eucalyptus that leads to an herbaceous finish, the company noted.
“It’s a very bold flavor profile,” Stock said. “The plant has been sitting out under the desert sky anywhere from 15 to 25 years, which is pretty remarkable. The plant itself has these really intense essential oils and those oils are what makes sotol have such a bold but beautiful flavor profile.”
He also says sotol can be drastically different depending on where the plant is growing. Los Magos harvests different plants from different areas to get its specific flavor profile.
Sotol is gaining the attention of mixologists and craft spirit enthusiasts worldwide for its unique flavor profile and versatility, the company said. As it gains popularity in the U.S., sotol is expected to overtake tequila and mezcal in the near future.
“I think Ohio as a state has exceeded in terms of sales compared to every other state that we have thus far, almost overnight,” Stock said. “I feel like we’re just getting started.”
Where you can find sotol in Dayton
Tender Mercy and Warped Wing are two establishments in the Dayton area that carry Los Magos Sotol Blanco, in addition to several retailers across the state.
“In relation to cocktails, it’s a challenging and fun spirit to work with,” said Chris Dimmick, co-owner of Tender Mercy and Sueño.
Sotol is represented on the cocktail list at Tender Mercy in the Dusk Til Dawn by bar manager Tyler Hampton. The drink features reposado, tequila, sotol, sfumato, coffee liqueur, demerara syrup, cold brew and cinnamon smoke.
Dimmick says they are excited to have a new Mexican spirit to add to their contemporary Mexican concept at Sueño. He added he was impressed with the spirit’s balance and sweetness.
Warped Wing is using Los Magos Sotol in one of their signature cocktails, re-launching next week, served at all of the brewery’s locations. The Los Magos Mary is a spin on a classic bloody mary with Losa Magos Sotol and RADS bloody mary mix, garnished with a chili salt rim.
Credit: Submitted Photo
Credit: Submitted Photo
“The two brands are a perfect match in our opinion,” said Nick Bowman, vice president of sales and marketing at Warped Wing. “Our Brewmaster, John Haggerty, has also spent a lot of time in Mexico and in particular down in Chihuahua where the sotol is made. We currently have some beer aging in sotol barrels which we are excited to release in the near future.”
Los Magos Sotol Blanco is available in 25 states throughout the U.S. as well as in Mexico and Canada. The company’s main focus is to expand to all 50 states as they are also in talks with other countries, according to Stock.
“I want to bring awareness and I want to introduce this awesome new category to consumers all across the country,” he said.
The Los Magos team and USGB Bartender of the Year Jessi Pollak will be at Tender Mercy on June 4 to celebrate the launch of sotol. For more information about Los Magos, visit www.losmagossotol.com or the brand’s Instagram or Facebook pages.
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