Taverna at Park MGM celebrates uniqueness of mezcal and tequila
More than 500 mezcals and tequilas — the largest collection in the country — are the centerpiece of the new Mama Rabbit at Park MGM. It’s an ode to Oaxaca, Mexico, the cradle of mezcal and the birthplace of Bricia Lopez, who collaborated on the project with MGM Resorts International and comes from a long line of mezcal craftsmen.
“I want to introduce people to my culture,” she said. Lopez has been credited with fueling the growing pop-ularity of the spirit in the U.S. through appearances nationwide and by importing Oaxaca’s treasure to Los Angeles restaurant Guelaguetza, which was founded by her father and now is owned by Lopez and her siblings.
“There are no big brands behind mezcal,” said Craig Schoettler, corporate mixologist for MGM Resorts. “It’s all little villages, little producers. This is their craft, their art, their livelihood, their passion. The majority of mezcal that’s made never leaves Oaxaca.”
While Mama Rabbit celebrates both mezcal and tequila, it also highlights their differences. Both come from agave — tequila only from blue agave — but while the plant is steamed to make tequila, it’s roasted in earthen pits covered with lava rocks to make mezcal. That accounts for the spirit’s distinctively smoky notes, which mingle with nuanced flavors of whichever agave species is used.
“Smoke and earth are a big part of our history,” Lopez said. “Kitchens are always outdoors, with wood fires. Everything is thrown directly on the fire.”
That smoky flavor can take mezcal novices by surprise. “The flavor profile of mezcal can be somewhat assertive to the non-familiar palate,” Schoettler said. So Mama Rabbit serves mezcal cocktails as well as 1- and 2-ounce pours, priced at $15 to $600 per ounce, and $16 to $24 for cocktails, to sip with its menu of small plates. The cocktails are designed to complement the flavor of the spirit.
“We have lots of herbs and spices and chocolate to play with,” Lopez said. “We’re making approachable cocktails people can associate with mezcal.”
An example is the Guelaguetza Cocktail — a mezcal take on a margarita with El Silencio Espadin, fresh lime, gusano salt, and a lime paleta.
The taverna’s name comes from Mayahuel, the Aztec goddess of agave, who was said to have 400 breasts to feed her 400 rabbit children. Anwar Mekhayech, principal and founding partner of DesignAgency and the project’s designer, said decorative elements include 400 clay rabbits, handmade in Oaxaca. He described the taverna as “bold and celebratory, but at the same time, kind of chic and hidden.”
The 4,400-square-foot space between Best Friend and On the Record has a walk-up bar in the resort, roaming margarita carts and live entertainment. The grand opening will be Sept. 12, during Mexican Independence Day weekend.