For some people, drinking tequila, a type of mezcal made from the blue agave plant in specific regions of Mexico — as well as other kinds of mezcal — is even a way to signal dissent from the presidency of Donald Trump, who has made a border wall between the United States and Mexico a priority.
When the Mr. Trump announced his intention to run for office, John Rexer, the founder of Ilegal Mezcal, a company based in Oaxaca, Mexico, started a line of merchandise denigrating Mr. Trump’s character. The company hosts concerts with Planned Parenthood at an unmarked theater in Manhattan’s West Village and only makes mezcal “with espadin agave because it’s sustainable,” said Kaylan Rexer, 29, Ilegal’s brand director.
This delectable dram is dry and robust, with wafts of smoke on the finish that coat your throat. Another unaged offering, this bottling is best enjoyed neat. While it works in cocktails—and was technically designed to be used in them—we find that its peppery, wet stone complexities are best represented when there’s nothing else to distract from them.
As the brand director behind the politically active and socially conscious Mezcal brand, Ilegal Mezcal, Kaylan Rexer is responsible for starting movements. From creating the “Donald Eres Un Pendejo” campaign in protest of U.S. president Donald Trump to throwing benefit concerts for Planned Parenthood, Rexer has proven that she's a force to be reckoned with not only in the alcohol business, but also in her community. So, it makes sense that her favorite food would also have a reputation for supplying a kick. The one food Rexer could never live without? Chilis (and Mezcal, of course).
Among the emerging masses of trailblazing power women defying odds in their respective male-dominated industries is Kaylan Rexer, bad ass brand director of Ilegal Mezcal. Ilegal is a liquor company that vends not only the secret, smoky spirit that is mezcal, but also a refreshing new mindset on consumer industries. They are fostering a new conversation between alcohol and politics, one that is finally clear of objectifying ad campaigns and controversial lawsuits. Rexer, as mastermind behind Ilegal’s voice is ironically soft spoken in her words, but loud and clear in her actions.
Her speciality is bringing people together, united under the great causes of advocacy and alcohol. Ilegal is markedly political—you’ve probably seen their street art campaigns—and strives to support everything from LGBTQ+ rights to economic stability in the lives of Oaxacan mezcal artisans. Read on to find out more about this boundary-pushing brand and how Kaylan uses her platform to speak up on issues that really matter.
Hoerner's exhibiting the photos just blocks from where they were taken, in the old Perry Street Theater, which Ilegal Mezcal now calls home. Here, they've hosted a series of concerts with proceeds to benefit Planned Parenthood. And now the show "Ilegal Pride," curated by Gramercy Park Hotel’s Rose Bar Creative Director Matthew Green and Ilegal Mezcal's brand team leader Kaylan Rexer, stakes claim to the walls with a portion of proceeds benefitting select LGBTQ youth charities.
Following the path of Café No Se’s several windowless rooms and through a crawlspace door will eventually deposit the adventurer at yet another bar, where they serve only mezcal. In this room, I met with John Rexer, head honcho of not just the bar, but his own mezcal brand.
In the summer of 2015, in response to Trump calling all Mexicans “rapists and criminals,” John Rexer conceived of a guerrilla marketing campaign with the message “Donald Eres Un Pendejo"—as in, “Donald You’re An Asshole.” The American ex-pat and bar-owner wanted to promote his small batch mezcal brand, Ilegal, while expressing vehement opposition to Trump’s racist and xenophobic campaign.