I nearly dropped my copy of the New Yorker’s Food & Travel Issue this morning while reading Dana Goodyear’s rollicking story about the recent mezcal boom in the United States when I discovered this bit of information: the Light and Space artist Ron Cooper is something of a mezcal baron, and has been exporting the heady beverage from Mexico to the United States since 1995.
Cooper, Goodyear writes, believes he coined the phrase “sip it, don’t shoot it” and has an “unstudied man bun.” He shows up in the story in Oaxaca, Mexico, offering “mezcal Negronis from a dented plastic water bottle,” and says that he sold 50,000 six-bottle cases in 2015. Ken Price painted the labels! Too many great things to mention here, so here’s just one excerpt:
Cooper was a frequent guest of Stanley and Elyse Grinstein, art collectors who were behind Gemini G.E.L., a printmaking studio that championed L.A. artists. “William Burroughs is there,” Cooper recalled. “Rauschenberg is there. Tony Berlant is there. Larry Bell is there. Everyone from the L.A. art world is there, and I got the good stuff and we’re all drinking it and we’re having a good time. And then it goes to the in-group in New York—Jasper Johns, Richard Serra, Robert Smithson.”
Cooper is a big fan of the liquor, and “came to see his buzz as a work of art,” in Goodyear’s words. “A work of art transforms the viewer,” Cooper told her. “Mezcal gave me all these incredible, humorous thoughts—transformation.”