We Talked Mezcal (And Yes, Weed) With Cheech Marin

Riviera Imports held a launch party for its Tres Papalote mezcal brand on May 18 at Black Barn in New York. We caught up with the spirit’s brand ambassador Cheech Marin—the actor/comedian best known as half of the Cheech & Chong comedy duo—at the event to get his story.

So why did Cheech Marin, shown above celebrating with old friend Geraldo Rivera, decide to get behind a mezcal brand? He had been approached to do a wine, “but I said, no that market’s too crowded,” Marin notes.

A tequila brand was then proposed,
 but Marin thought that market had become too crowded as well. He’d been drinking a lot of mezcal lately, and thought that the lesser-known agave spirit posed an opportunity to do something different.

It took about a year to find the right mezcal, says Marin, who visited the agave growers and distillers in Mexico. He’s also been getting advice on the spirits business from his long-time friend John Paul DeJoria, who founded Patron tequila.

What does Marin like about mezcal? The smokiness, for one thing, plus “it’s more fluid and sweeter than other spirits,” Marin says. Also, “it never gives me a hangover,” though he admits he doesn’t drink too much.

Mezcal also works well in cocktails, especially with fruit flavors and spicy elements, Marin says. Specialty drinks served at the party included the Cheech, made with Tres Papalote mezcal, grilled pineapple, serrano chili, lime and agave; and the Night Life, with mezcal, Campari infused with coffee, Antica Formula and a flamed orange twist.

The spirit can also be subbed in some of the classic cocktails for unique results. When Marin was in Hawaii earlier this month for a comedy show with partner Tommy Chong, he went to Roy’s restaurant where someone handed him a Gimlet. Marin asked if he could try one made with mezcal instead of gin. The reimagined cocktail was a hit, he notes: “By the end of the night, everyone in Roy’s was drinking them—even the staff!”

Considering Cheech & Chong are famous for their love of cannabis, does Marin ever mix mezcal with pot? “I have, yes,” he says, noting that he actually has a line of marijuana coming out in a few weeks called “Cheech’s Private Stash.” In general, Marin added, “I like one for the taste and the other for the feeling.”

Melissa Dowling is editor of Cheers Magazine, a sister publication of Beverage Dynamics.

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