Chef Dana Rodriguez has been keeping busy. At the beginning of May, she reopened both her downtown restaurants — Super Mega Bien and Work and Class — after a long hiatus. A few months prior, she and her partners Karen Ashworth and Scott Kiere began a relatively slow rollout for their incredible mezcal and tequila brand Doña Loca. Three expressions of the mezcal began turning up in shelves across town towards the end of March, with plans to add three additional tequilas toward the end of summer. The mezcals are all single-origin, produced by Enrique Diaz Cruz and the rest of the Diaz clan in Yautepec, Sierra Madre del Sur, Oaxaca.
The trio began plotting the artisanal brand on a trip to Oaxaca over three years ago after Kiere — the co-founder and CEO of eVolutionary Green Holdings, LLC, a strategic business development and investment company with a focus on environmentally sustainable products, services and technologies — approached Rodriguez with his intentions. An agave aficionado himself, Kiere had been planning on starting a line for some time, though it was only after Rodriguez agreed to include her culinary bent and restaurant connections that the scheme began to actually take shape. The duo then added Ashworth — a former entrepreneur who kickstarted her career by developing and manufacturing a line natural of outdoor clothing before entering the world of finance — to act as the company’s CEO. Prior to taking on the role at Digame — Doña Loca’s backing brand — she worked in financial planning for Merrill Lynch, before transitioning into executive leadership roles at Morgan Stanley, Smith Barney and RBC WealthManagement.
Rodriguez — Mexico native and a James Beard-nominated chef who affectionately earned the nickname Loca long before the mezcal was a glint in anyone’s eye — is certainly the driving spirit behind the brand. Hoping to highlight the incredible craftsmanship and daily grind of mezcaleros from Mexico she has made a point of getting her hands dirty, even harvesting agave cliffside while clipped into a harness. “If you don’t go over there, you will never understand,” she said. The current roster includes an Espadin ($54), a Tobala ($120) and a Tepeztate ($135) all produced from mountain spring water in copper alembic stills. While the expressions certainly catch something of a higher price tag, each is worth the additional dough, as the Tobala and Tepeztate each come from wild-harvested plants that have been growing from 10-15 and 15-30 years respectively. For Rodriguez the spirits are highly emblematic of a philosophy that involves respect — something she sees as absent in the many agave brands that toss in a slew of artificial ingredients, as well as critically lacking from many of the Americans who consume the product without considering its origin. Mezcal is hard work.
Continuing the tradition of never cutting corners, Doña Loca will add three additional tequilas to the already fabulous line. A blanco — aged 60 days — a reposado aged between two and 12 months — and an anejo — aged one and three — all produced from organic blue agave sourced exclusively from Jalisco. While the spirits are available across town, it is perhaps best enjoyed at Rodriguez’s restaurants where customers can sip it before purchasing a bottle straight from the shelf.
Work and Class is located at 2500 Larimer St., Denver. It is open Wednesday and Thursday from 5 – 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 5 – 11 p.m., and Sunday from 5 – 10 p.m.
Super Mega Bien is located at 1260 25th St., Denver. It is open Tuesday -Thursday from 5 – 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 5 – 11 p.m.
All photography by Alden Bonecutter.