In this article, we examine debates that have unfolded over two controversial proposals, both introduced in 2011, about how to regulate mezcal. Mezcals are distilled agave spirits that have been produced in Mexico for at least the last four hundred years. Critics of the proposed regulations argued that they threatened the livelihoods of thousands of small mezcal distillers and aimed to consolidate the power of industrial tequila and mezcal producers. Surprisingly, a transnational movement of retailers and bartenders aligned themselves with small mezcal producers and defeated the industrial elites. Here, we show how arguments on both sides of the debate focused on the market and consumer rights. We argue that there is a need to move beyond market-based labels in order to create more democratic, participatory, and inclusive ways of protecting, valuing, and preserving local foods and drinks and the people who make them.

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