The Mezcal Philanthropist
Some guys drink mezcal. Some guys make mezcal. This guy does both, and raises funds for sick children in the process. Meet Fausto Zapata, InsideHook’s Man of the Month for January.
Mezcal: it’s intense.
Made in the Oaxacan mountains by roasting agave hearts in charcoal pits, crushing them, then distilling them in mottled and ancient pot stills, the spirit can come out a bit … prickly. If tequila makes sweet love to your taste buds, then mezcal is BDSM.
It’s a little humorous, then, that Fausto Zapata uses mezcal to save the lives of hundreds of sick children.
And in doing so, introduces a new liquor brand to the market — and balance to his family life.
That’s why we raise a glass and say cheers to Zapata, our Man of the Month for January.
What would become Mezcal El Silencio — one of the tastiest mezcals we’ve ever tippled — was born on a warm night in May at a fundraiser at the Montage Hotel’s Ten Pound Bar.
Zapata had recently taken a tour of UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital and learned most of the children wouldn’t live through the year.
“I was speechless. And as a father of two, it moved me to the core.”
A fundraiser, Mezcal at Dusk, was born.
“Mezcal always gets people very curious.”
Together with his friend Vicente Cisneros (now business partner) and wife, Kathia, Zapata sourced 120 small-batch mezcals for a bash that raised $60,000 for the Chase Foundation, which supports Mattel. They’ll host a second edition of the event this summer.
With the success of Mezcal at Dusk, Zapata — long a fan of the peaty stuff — decided the time had come to make his own.
“I thought Wall Street was in my future,” says Zapata, a Mexico City native who spent time in NYC’s financial district and made a career building large residential projects in Cancun.
But, he says, “my first love was always that world.”
Oaxaca. Agave. Mezcal.
El Silencio launched last September, coinciding with a recent upsurge in the spirit’s popularity in L.A.
But “it’s not just juice in a bottle,” Zapata says.
“There’s a lot of soul.”
Mezcal, as any connoisseur will tell you, is an Old World spirit. It needs Old World care.
“That’s what’s beautiful … what makes mezcal so full of character and exquisite. It’s an artisanal process that can’t be replicated with modern processes,” says Zapata.
As for the name (El Silencio), Zapata’s master palenque told them the first sip opens your taste buds, but the second one is where the flavors explode. So when you take that second sip of mezcal, you should be alone with the flavors in total silence.
And it’s also the name of the club in David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive. So there’s that, too.
Today, El Silencio is being mixed in most of L.A.’s hippest haunts (Petty Cash, The SoHo House and Acabar to name a few), and they have plans to expand throughout California. They’ll also make an appearance at this summer’s Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans.
Zapata’s already seen some of the city’s best mixologists (like Petty Cash’s Julian Cox) do incredible things with mezcal.
“A beverage as beautiful and complex as mezcal and all these phenomenally creative mixologists around and (what you end up with) is not even a cocktail — it’s a work of art.”
Art or industry, Zapata’s new endeavor has him happier than he’s ever been – both on the job and away from it.
“When you love what you do, when you enjoy the people in it so much, that balance just comes natural.”
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