Bartender Ron Cooper of Del Maguey - Biography


October 2018

In the early 1960s, Ron Cooper was a promising art student at the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles. He and a crew of 17 other students traveled down to Ensenada, Mexico and spent a night in a local cantina. It was there that Cooper sipped his first taste of mezcal, but it would take years for the sip to morph into a lifestyle and vocation.

After graduating from art school, Cooper spent the 1960s as a featured artist in numerous international shows, including those at The Guggenheim Museum in New York and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. With a little more money in his pocket, Cooper returned to Mexico and landed in Oaxaca. He instantly fell in love with the mezcal he tasted and felt passionate about maintaining the local traditions that produced it. That taste inspired him to found his mezcal company, Del Maguey, in 1995. The swirling watercolor artwork for the bottles was designed by Cooper’s friend, artist Ken Price.

Since the consumption of mezcal has picked up in the past decade (in large part due to his brand), Cooper’s notoriety has risen, and he has hosted pairing dinners with noted chefs, such as José Andrés, Mary Sue Milliken, and the late Anthony Bourdain. In 2016, Cooper won the James Beard Award for “Outstanding Wine, Beer, or Spirits Professional.” In the summer of 2017, international spirits company Pernod Ricard acquired a majority stake in Del Maguey