An ode to mezcal at Tahona Mercado

"It needs to have a place where everybody can learn the nuance," said co-owner Steven Sadri.

Story by Paolo Bicchieri

It’s a foggy morning when I meet the mezcal maester Steven Sadri at Tahona Mercado, a new Nob Hill boutique that doubles as one of the most impressive agave-based liquors libraries in the city. And Sadri, whose knowledge of tequila and mezcal is evident in every customer interaction, is humbled when I acknowledge his mastery. 

“As I learn more and more I feel like I know less and less,” Sadri said. “That’s a good feeling. Constantly learning.”

Sadri had been working as a bartender in the city when someone walked in with a bottle of Vago Elote mezcal. It was the first time he loved the flavor of any spirit served neat (or, on its own). His wife and fellow co-founder, Emily Thompson, found her love of agave drinks from three years at Nopalito. Together, they hope to bring the same energy and attention we now expect in San Francisco from “third wave” coffee or natural wines to Mexican spirits. 

“It needs to have a place where everybody can learn the nuance. It needs to have a platform,” Sadri said. “Not all mezcal is smoky. Not all mezcal will blow your face off...It’s the most terroir-driven spirit in the entire world.”

And it’s not just drink that the kind folks at Tahona Mercado can teach you about. Food is top of mind for them as well. 

“My favorite thing to do is drink neat mezcal with a carnitas taco,” Sadri told me, after I purchased a bottle of Tosba that he thought would pair well with pork. “The acid of the mezcal cuts through the fat of the meat, and the fat of the meat plays with the flavor of the mezcal.” 

Within the next couple months or so, Sadri and Thompson plan to hold private meals and mezcal tastings at their little corner store on Leavenworth and Sacramento. That’ll launch once they get themselves settled since, after all, the duo officially tied the knot just two weeks ago.

“It’s been ridiculous,” Thompson laughed. 

Tahona Mercado / 1168 Leavenworth Street / 11 am to 7 pm Tuesday-Friday and 10 am. to 7 pm Saturday-Sunday. 

Also, Mezcal Week starts tomorrow, which means from 9/8 to 9/15 be on the lookout for giveaways on Tahona Mercado’s Instagram