Dock Street debuts its own mezcal

Dock Street Brewing's Rosemarie Certo (left), Regina Pfohl, and Marilyn Candeloro with the Mexican-bottled Vicio brand.

Rosemarie Certo got a jump on the craft beer revolution when she opened Dock Street Brewing Co. in 1985, making it one of the country’s first microbreweries. Now she’s diving into another fledgling industry: craft spirits.

Get ready for Vicio mezcal. The smoky agave liquor is the first product from new Dock Street Spirits, a partnership between Certo, brewery second-in-command Marilyn Candeloro, and French linguist Regina Pfohl. The first official batch landed in Philadelphia just over a week ago.

Vicio has been in the works for over two years. Certo and Candeloro made at least five trips to Oaxaca, Mexico, tasting different mezcals and searching for the right mezcalero. They found a family that had the technique down well from making it for decades for their village, and - through a translator - commissioned a custom batch, specifying flavor and texture characteristics for the final product.

Tried at the Vetri Great Chefs Event, the result is an unequivocal success. Smooth and with a floral nose, the spirit is best sipped neat. A first it tastes very similar to a fine blanco tequila, that other agave spirit, but after a velvety swallow, you feel its signature smoky notes bloom. This is a joven mezcal, meaning “young” or unaged, so it’s not overpowering. It’s the kind of booze that can sneak up on you, because it’s very easy to drink.

That’s no mistake - in fact, it’s part of the brand image. Vicio means “vice” in Spanish, and the tagline for the spirit is “A Voluptuous Habit.” A nephew of the mezcalero drew the logo, which is a wild-but-cute-looking axolotl, an ancient, salamander-like amphibian also known as a “Mexican walking fish.”

Though the mezcal must be produced in Oaxaca (by appellation of origin law and because that’s where those with the specialized knowledge are), Dock Street Spirits has other liquors planned. A lease for a distillery in Philadelphia is currently in the works.

Vicio now available via SLO (special liquor order) via the state Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores. Give it a try at the first official public tasting event on Wednesday, June 25, from 5 to 8 p.m. at Twenty Manning Grill.