Ignacio “Nacho” Jimenez, the head bartender at mescal bar Ghost Donkey, is one of those incredibly warm and friendly people who are without a doubt born for hospitality. Starting as a back waiter at PUBLIC thirteen years ago, Nacho previously ran the beverage program at The Daily, and in 2016 he moved to co-run the mezcal-heavy beverage program at Ghost Donkey alongside Eben Freeman.
We had the pleasure of sitting down with Nacho to learn a thing or two about the often misunderstood spirit, mescal. Our tasting menu included:
- Montelobos Mezcal Agave Espadín from Santiago Matatlán, Oaxaca
- El Jolgorio Agavé Espadín Edition 4, Harvest 2009, Bottle No. 124/1550
- Mezcal Marca Negra Ensamble: wild Espadín, Madrecuishe, and Biciushe from Santa Maria La Pila and Miahuatlan in Oaxaca
What is the concept behind Ghost Donkey?
Ghost Donkey is a tequila and mescal bar. Our focus along with the agave spirits is Mexican hospitality. We wanted to create a space that felt very fun, inviting and welcoming for everyone at all times so the design of the space, cocktails and food is based around embracing this part of our culture.
Why Mescal? What makes it so special?
First, we felt that there weren’t enough mescal bars around. Considering the growth of the category there are just so many different mescals entering the American market and they all really need a platform.
With that said, I could go on forever about what makes this spirit so unique, but I think what really got me interested in mescal is how this spirit talks about terroir more than other. If you want to understand mescal, you have to understand the conditions on which agaves are grown, the soil, the weather and topography, the traditions on which the spirit is produced, the way of cooking the agave, the way of grinding it, the type of distill used, how long it is fermented, and so on. All of this talks about culture and heritage and this is something that is hard to achieve in any art.
How many mescals do you have on your shelf at Ghost Donkey?
it’s hard to tell because some of the mescals we carry have a very limited production, but I will say anywhere between 60 to 70.
What’s a mescal that you’re really into at the moment?
Oh I love diversity but there’s a time and a place for everything. If I had to pick a bottle to sit with on my desk on Monday morning it would be El Jolgorio Madrecuixe. I love the high minerality and the mixed herb aromas of this mescal – makes it a perfect starter for my week!
Who in hospitality really inspires you?
There are three people that have been really a big influence in how I perceive hospitality: Linden Pride who owns Cafe Danté, his partner Naren Young, and Masa Urushido who works at Saxon + Parole. Naren and Linden were the first people to really notice my ability to make everyone in the room feel welcome; they were the ones who gave me the first opportunity to manage a bar at The Daily when they worked for the AvroKO Group.
Masa is also known for his hospitality. Whether you are sitting at the bar while he’s working or are invited to his house for a “casual” dinner, his ability to make you feel welcome and special is like no one else! PLUS he has the best smile in the world!.
What excites you about where hospitality is going?
It’s hard to put in simple words, but I think that globalization has opened a lot of boundaries and frontiers and people in our industry are embracing this more than any other. This has put an emphasis in the way we experience other cultures and adapt it to our own. I love programs like Bar Goto and Atla where you can really get a sense of this.