Nothing warms away the cold-weather blues quite like a hot bowl of soup, and what better to pair it with than premiere agave booze? The Bowl of ‘Zole festival will be doling out traditional Mexican spirits and pozole at 99 Scott Studio in Bushwick, Brooklyn on Oct. 20, 2022.
The festival was founded by food-and-beverage experts Arik Torren (Fidencio Spirits), chef Danny Mena (Hecho en Dumbo and La Loncheria), and Jimmy Carbone (Food Karma). The trio aspires to give the humble and traditional Mexican soup, pozole, a stage all its own. With the help of Mexican chefs, mezcal producers, and New York foodies, they’ve delivered for the past two years and now are looking forward to celebrating their third anniversary.
Chef Mena did a pop-up pozoleria (this is just a way to say that a place sells pozole in Spanish — think “taqueria”) in collaboration with chef Fany Gerson of La Newyorkina, which he called El Newyorkino, for about four or five months last winter. From there, it became its own festival. Mena says, “That’s how it came together, in bits and pieces like that.”
Pozole, for the unawares, is a popular Mexican stew made with pork, garlic, and hominy, filled with extras like lettuce, onion, and radish, and can be served with tostadas and crema. The dish is comforting and filling, and is usually served at family gatherings and other celebratory events. Pozole customizations vary from region to region and even family to family.
This year, Bowl of ‘Zole will be inviting celebrated chefs Justin Bazdarich of Oxomoco and Cosme Aguilar of Casa Enrique to showcase their unique takes on pozole. The festival will also include outdoor grilling stations and plenty of non-pozole fares, including tacos al pastor, tortillas from Sobre Masa, and paletas from La NewYorkina.
Event organizer and owner of Food Karma Projects, Jimmy Carbone, says the spotlight is on the chefs and their creative visions for the dish, which makes it feel different than other food festivals.
“The chefs are really proud of this event,” Carbone says. “I don’t think that there’s an event where Mexican chefs are really the stars of the show [like they are here].”
But you can’t have a celebration without a good drink! Bowl of ‘Zole invites vendors and producers to introduce festival-goers to the world of agave spirits. In fact, this year’s festival will have over 100 variations of them.
You may be familiar with mezcal and tequila, but Bowl of ‘Zole will also feature agave spirits like sotol and raicilla. Agave spirits are also traditionally Mexican and vary from region to region. If you’re looking for something new and want to support small producers, you’ll be able to sample a diverse selection of mezcals and spirits and pre-order your favorites from vendors.
Producers present will include Del Maguey, Siete Misterios Mezcal, Erstwhile Mezcal, Don Fulano Tequila, Astral Tequila, and much, much more. Of course, you’ll be able to find beer, wine, and hard seltzers as well.
Mena is partial to mezcal, exemplified by the fact he’s an owner of the mezcal brand Pelotón de la Muerte. The spirit’s rich history and connection to the land and community are a big part of what draws him to it, he explains. Just like pozole, mezcal is all about people.
“The beauty of it,” Mena says, “is that it’s such a clean spirit and there’s so much flavor in its base form. The agave plant is so complex, and there’s nothing that compares to mezcal when it comes to how crafted it is. The spiritual connection that those people have to the plant, to the land, and knowing how important it is to their livelihood and their culture, and for me to be a part of it and being from Mexico City — every time I go down there, I’m just kind of blown away by how beautiful it is.”
Craft, when it comes to the liquor industry, means the spirit is handcrafted and typically produced in a small distillery with more local ingredients than a larger producer might use. In Mexico, agave-based spirits like mezcal and tequila have been made locally for years, and have vibrant communities of connoisseurs.
At the Bowl of ‘Zole festival, attendees will be supporting a good cause, too. Each chef who participates in the festival will have 100 servings of pozole set aside to be delivered that night to food-insecure New Yorkers by the non-profit City Harvest.
Tickets are available for purchase online now, including VIP tickets that offer admission an hour early at 5 p.m., access to all food and drink (that’s over 10 different pozoles and over 50 mezcal samples), an exclusive goody bag, and time to mingle with the chefs and other industry professionals. General admission starts at 6 p.m. and includes all food and drink.
But no matter what time you choose to arrive at Bowl of ‘Zole, you’ll leave with a belly full of warm pozole, and premium spirits, knowing that you contributed to a worthy cause.
This article is sponsored by Bowl of ‘Zole.