A spoon in the desert, a Sotol in my glass

Escarcega, Christmas 2023.

In the small town of Escarcega in the Mexican state of Campeche, Christmas unfolded with a delightful blend of tradition and diversity. As we gathered around the table with the family of my partner, we could admire the choice of spirits reflecting eclectic tastes and regional influences.

From the smoky richness of the Mezcals from Michoacan and Oaxaca, the smooth allure of the best Tequilas, to the vibrant notes of Baja California wines, all these drinks were brought by family members scattered throughout the Mexican territory.

Amidst these familiar favorites, a newcomer stole the spotlight: a Sotol from Chihuahua, in the north of the country! A tasty liquid that I had discovered in the past thanks to OWC’s Tom Brady during his legendary Mexican Spirits Tasting.

To my surprise and for your information, we have a wonderful Sotol on our shop shelves, from La Higuera.

La Higuera is a range of sotol, the traditional spirit of Northern Mexico, made in the town of Aldama at the heart of the sotol region by Gerardo Ruelas – a fifth generation Sotol producer.

But is Sotol made from agave?

Not! It comes from a plant which looks like agave but is more closely related to a succulent, very similar to the Yucca plant called Desert Spoon. Dasylirion wheeleri (scientific name) is still primarily harvested in the wild. Throughout a plant’s lifetime, it will produce several tall, flowering stalks, which drop seeds that are carried by the wind.

How is it made?

The process for making sotol is remarkably like how mezcal is made. Once the piñas are harvested, at the vinata (sotol distillery), the sotolero (sotol distiller), digs a pit in the ground. There, the plant is roasted in a conical oven, fuelled by whatever type of firewood grows nearby. It cooks for three to four days, after which the softened plant matter is milled into pulp and pressed to extract the sweet sap, the starches having been converted into fermentable sugars. The cooked piñas are then crushed, and the extracted juice is fermented using natural, wild yeasts. And while you produce six to eight litres of Mezcal/Tequila per piña, it’s only one litre of Sotol that you can produce from the desert spoon heart!

After fermentation, the liquid is distilled at least once, sometimes multiple times, in copper stills. This distillation process helps to purify the spirit and enhance its flavour profile. To achieve the desired alcohol level (typically around 50% ABV), sotoleros pass the liquid through a cow horn multiple times to examine the “pearls” or tiny bubbles that appear. An ancestral process which is similar to my experience with my friends mezcaleros back in Napizaro, Michoacan (blog coming soon).

But how does it taste?

I could say that the Sotol La Higuera from the sotolero Gerardo Ruela sits between a good earthy Tequila and a delicious smoky Mezcal. A spirit with an earthy, vegetal character but with a rounded sweetness on the palate, very mineral, almost citrusy. Absolutely fantastic!

And to enjoy this Sotol at his best, here is a banger of a cocktail that you could make with products supplied by the Oxford Wine Company:

Naked In the Desert



  • Add all the ingredients to a shaker with ice.
  • Shake well and strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice.
  • Garnish with a grapefruit twist and six drops of Angostura bitters.

Thanks for reading this blog, Disfruta la bebida, ¡y hasta pronto amigos!