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How Tequila Replaced Cosmos As The Celebrity Quaff Of Choice

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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 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.

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1. When Did Ilegal Begin?

It began back in 2004ish, very informally and almost by mistake. I was bringing mezcal down from Oaxaca for my bar, Café No Sé, in Antigua Guatemala, and the mezcal became popular very quickly. At the time, we were bringing down unbranded mezcal from a variety of villages in Oaxaca that included: Tlacolula, San Lorenzo, Sola De Vega, Santa Catarina Minas, Hierve el Agua, Santiago Matatlan, and a few others.

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2. I hear you smuggled mezcal into Guatemala?

Well, let’s just say we were a bit creative in how we brought mezcal across the border. You see back in 2004, there were very few mezcals that were certified for export, almost none. Bringing a few bottles across the border was not such a big deal, but try getting 50, 100, or 500 bottles across and things get a bit interesting. Especially at the borders we were crossing; where back then, the cops, the military, the gangs and just plain old thieves had to be eluded or navigated or co-opted, if you get my drift.