Fortune and Time Inc. sister publication Food & Wine teamed up to bring you our third annual list of the women who had the most transformative impact in the last year on what we eat and drink. This group of entrepreneurs, activists, and idealists is making its mark up and down the food chain.
20. Cecilia Rios Murrieta, La Niña del Mezcal
Too many people think of mezcal as tequila’s rougher, less classy cousin, but Cecilia Rios Murrieta intends to change that. Her mission in starting La Nina del Mezcal was to educate the public about mezcal, and her brand’s artisan spirits are the perfect vessel for that lesson. “Every agave has a distinct personality, and every mezcal has a sense of place,” she explains, making the point that great mezcal is as distinctive and expressive as great tequila or even single-malt Scotch. Today Rios Murrieta divides her time between building her brand in the U.S. and working to source artisanal offerings from Oaxaca’s palenqueros, the small distillers hidden throughout the province’s villages. “I fell in love with being a Mexican woman in Oaxaca,” she says regarding the region, which is the source of her passion for this spirit. Now, with five different bottlings in her portfolio, more on the way, and a distribution network that’s spreading throughout the country, her mission is on its way to being accomplished.