Arts & Entertainment | February 24, 2017 9:00 am

Cheech Marin on Skinning Bears and the New Mezcal He’d Like to Sell You

We chatted with the Godfather of weed about his newest vice

“I’m a Chicano. We have three jobs at all times.”

Cheech Marin’s a busy, funny guy. The actor and stand-up legend is now also the face of Tres Papalote, a new, more approachable mezcal that serves as an admirable gateway into Mexico’s most misunderstood spirit — a spirit which is, according to boozy data specialists International Wine and Spirits Research, expected to grow three times as fast as tequila this year.

On first taste, Tres Papalote still brings the smoke, but moderates it with citrus and herbal notes. It’s a solid sipper, but it truly excels in cocktails.

We spent a few minutes with Marin talking about mezcal, before diving into his mastery of Celebrity Jeopardy, the (non)hazards of smoking and drinking, and one amazing story about bears.

IH: Given your long acting and comedy history, why get into the booze business?

Cheech Marin:
It’s a natural evolution. After telling jokes, you’re thirsty! It’s all connected: Leisure, entertainment, laughing, drinking, smoking, running, eating … it all goes together.

IH: So why mezcal?

Too many wines, too much tequila. Mezcal hasn’t been represented, and it didn’t have a “face” to put to it. It’s a unique corner. And it has a history. Unfortunately, a lot of them taste like kerosene (laughs). So this one has a medium smokey blend. It’s a little smoother.

IH: How do you drink it?

I like it mixed. It blends well. A margarita is good, but I love a Mezcal Mule. I just bought 30 copper mugs so I could serve them at parties. It also pairs well with dry vermouth, soda, flower liqueurs … it’s very sophisticated.

IH Other celebrities have their own spirits…

CM: Yeah, but they don’t what they’re talking about (laughs).

IH: George Clooney has a tequila. How would you sell him on your mezcal?

He’d drink it. [Mysterious voice] He owes me one.

IH: I know you’re an avid art collector … did that play into the bottle design at all?

CM: Definitely. The design on the bottle is based on a glass sculpture in my collection. I wanted something you could see from across the liquor store.

IH: I interviewed director Steven Soderbergh about his new spirit (Singani 63) last year. He said he was told “You can’t just release it. You have to show up everywhere and really promote it, talk to people, etc.” Do you have larger plans to do something with the brand — a tour, appearances, social media, etc.?

CM: I’m doing it. Liquor stores, book openings, all those things. Mezcal needs a face!

IH: Can you combine weed and mezcal?

CM: Depends on your level of expertise. I have learned to that. I’m multifaceted! Look, at the end of the day, it’s all about making yourself a nice drink, sitting on your porch and just looking out at the ocean. If you have an ocean to look at.

IH: What’s the secret to destroying Anderson Cooper on Celebrity Jeopardy?
CM: You gotta be faster than the buzzer. I learned this trick from a track coach … use your index finger, not your thumb. There’s an insider tip.

IH: You have a new memoir coming out — any story that people would be surprised to hear?

CM: That I can skin a bear. I lived in Canada, in the wild of Alberta, for a few years. I was looking for a potter, he has an avid hunter, and one day we shot a bear … and I learned how to skin a bear. It was interesting: Six months before that, I was hanging on Sunset and Vine doing the scene.

IH: Thanks, Cheech. Good luck with the mezcal.
CM: Tell all your friends with money.

If you’re looking to get started, here’s a simple cucumber margarita recipe from Tres Papalote: 

2 oz Tres Papalote Mezcal
1 oz Cucumber Juice
0.75 oz Fresh Lime Juice
0.5 oz Agave Nectar

Directions: Shake and strain over fresh ice in a rocks glass. Add half rim of spicy chili salt with a sliced grilled jalapeno.