October 30, 2017

House Of The Spirits

Bringing the magic of mezcal to Expo Park

“The first time I tried mezcal it was terrible,” recalls Shad Kvetko, co-owner of the new Las Almas Rotas. “Good brands weren’t available in the United States. But then I tried some artisanal mezcals, and I went down a wormhole. You can taste the complexity of the culture in it—there’s a depth many spirits simply don’t have.”

Tequila’s lesser-known cousin, mezcal has been an underpublicized ingredient buried in the mix of adventurous cocktail menus. But in reality, this complex liquor derived from more than 30 varieties of the agave plant (tequila is distilled from blue agave alone) is a diverse spirit meant to be savored.

A trip to Oaxaca—one of nine specific regions where mezcal is produced—spiked Kvetko’s fascination. It wasn’t long until he, his wife, Leigh, and their friend and business partner Taylor Samuels were running a pop-up in their neighborhood of Bishop Arts. Las Almas Rotas (“The Broken Souls”) attracted passionate imbibers from as far as New York and Mexico City during a brief two-month run earlier this year. The trio quickly realized there was a larger market for mezcal in Dallas.

And so this July, the bar found its permanent home in an Expo Park space that formerly housed the watering hole/laundromat Bar of Soap. Designed to reflect a traditional mezcaleria, the open front room features a mural hand-painted by Leigh overlooking a cedar bar and repurposed church-pew seating. In the secluded back bar, visitors pass through a pair of 18th-century confessional doors to sit beneath a watchful statue of St. Jude (patron saint of impossible causes) as they sip—never shoot—a premium pour.

“Tequila got a bad name because it was all about college kids slamming shots. Mezcal is for sipping—the price point dictates that. When you sip it, you get all those wonderful characteristics,” says Kvetko.

“The first sip is strong but when you get customers to taste a little bit, it acclimates their palate,” adds Samuels, who knows what he’s talking about—his grandfather founded Maker’s Mark. “It’s like when people taste at our family distillery in Kentucky. The second or third sip is where you identify the nuances.”

To facilitate, Las Almas will offer varietal ights of mezcals, including sets of four half-ounce pours accompanied by orange slices dusted with sal de gusano (worm salt). Priced from $22 to more than $50, flights feature different agaves, mezcals from different Mexican states—even different liquors. The bar was devised to be “a shrine to the spirits of Mexico,” so Mexican beer, corn whiskey, agave gin, bourbon, and rye round out the menu. Mexican dishes such as tacos, tamales, and chicharrón from local chef Jose Luis accompany the extensive spirit list. A good meal and warm hospitality is, after all, the Oaxacan way. —Kendal Morgan

The Details: 3615 Parry Avenue. Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday 11 a.m.–midnight; Thursday – Saturday, 11 a.m.–2 a.m. lasalmasrotasdallas.com