After meeting in Zihuatanejo, Mexico, in 2012, Noel Morales and Rachel Glueck landed in Todos Santos, where they reconnected with a spirit brewed by Morales’ father and grandfather: Mezcal.
For two years, they entertained friends and family with rare mezcal they collected from remote villages around the country—and Morales’ cooking, focused on the flavors of Guerrero, Oaxaca, and Puebla. And then an idea was born: to offer their celebrations to the public at large, which they did with the launch of El Refugio in 2016.
“Our mission from day one has been to create a community gathering point where we share the richness of Mexican cuisine and culture—whether through prehispanic plates or newly invented dishes, artisanal mezcal, traditional ceremonies and community events,” the pair write.
The food, focused on the simple and fresh, and the drink—produced in batches under 200 liters, which never would otherwise be available outside its communities of origin—made their mark fast. Shortly after opening, New York–based literary agent Meg Thompson visited and was so amazed by the food that she offered to represent a cookbook if the pair decided to produce one. (They did, and it comes out next week.)
El Refugio outgrew its first location and moved to a second, which offered cooking classes and mezcal tastings—until the COVID-19 pandemic caused them to close their doors.
Now, Morales and Glueck are eyeing a third, more spacious location—and to get there, they’re bottling the last of their rare handcrafted mezcal, and for the first time, shipping it out into the world.
The trio of mezcals come from Rosa Flores—who began making the spirit at the age of 14—Zacharías Flores and Fabián García, and feature brand design and strategy from Dragon Rouge.
Pick up a bottle here.
Brand Strategy & Design: Dragon Rouge NY
Strategy Director: Cristina Ferrari
Brand Strategist: Annette Zenker
Design Director: Adam Lehman
Senior Designer: Claire Lieber
Designer: Gabby Lequerique
Motion Graphic Designer: Josh Hill