Jul 27, 2022
The first time I connected with Emma Janzen off social media happened last year when she, very graciously, offered to help guide me in the early stages of my book proposal. Since then, she’s continued to mentor me through the harrowing process of actually writing a book. She’s also made big career moves; recently published her latest book, “The Bartender’s Manifesto” with Toby Maloney and the bartenders at noted Chicago bar The Violet Hour; and even picked up a James Beard Award for her previous book, “The Way of the Cocktail,” co-authored with Chicago bartender Julia Momose.
Throughout that time, she’s also continued her work as a journalist, editor, photographer, and storyteller. Emma published an almost painfully beautiful personal essay for Good Beer Hunting titled “Slow, Reflective, Quiet — Meditations on Mezcal in San Baltazar Guelavila,” on May 18, 2022. The story, which was born out of a straightforward press trip, evolved into something that resonated deeply within her soul, which in turn created an opportunity to tap into her voice as more than just a witness to creation.
In today’s conversation about her piece, Emma shares what it was like to break out of a more journalistic mindset in order to experience what was happening to and around her, the importance of balancing a generational legacy of artistry with increasing global awareness and demand, and what’s at stake as mezcal marches towards a fork in the road, where one way leads to commodification and the other honors time and tradition. That story culminates with a feeling of optimism—or at least, I hope it does.
Bonus: In the latter part of the conversation, Emma mentions a Spotify playlist that helped center her thoughts at the end of her trip to the heart of Oaxaca. If you’re curious about the vibes, here’s a link to said playlist.