“They say that people in America like mezcal a lot,” says Fortunato Angeles, leaning on a wooden tank of fermenting agave. “I like the work because it puts food on the table.” Four generations of his ancestors have distilled the smoky spirit from ripe maguey, or agave, toiling under the Oaxacan sun in southern Mexico to provide the fuel for festivals and family celebrations in the village of San Juan del Rio. Angeles rubs a drop of his juice on his palms, cupping them around his nose to check the quality of his product. The first whiff of the potent spirit is pure alcohol, but then richer, caramel and fruit flavors bloom. “It’s the work I learned when I was a little boy,” says Angeles, looking out from the palenque, or mezcal distillery, where he roasts, crush, ferments, and distills alongside his uncle, Arnulfo, and two other maestro mezcaleros.