All seasons and celebrations in Oaxaca include mescal, the liquor distilled from the pineapple of the agave plant that some consider to be the poor cousin of tequila. During the Day of the Dead, mescal flows. It is sipped from small brandy snifters in finer restaurants or downed in one gulp followed by a beer chaser by the strong and mighty who frequent the corner bars. They prefer their beverage taken from bamboo-whittled shot glasses in the ancient the tradition of their Zapotec or Mixtec ancestors.
By the time we got to the Catedral Restaurant the bar had closed. We only wanted drinks and it was pushing midnight. The maitre d’ guided us to a white clothed table in the courtyard near the fountain with a cherub gurgling water from his mouth. The sound was soothing. I ordered a mescal with a sparkling water chaser. The waiter practiced his English and I replied in Spanish, also wanting to practice. We sounded like a discordant symphony with each section attempting to stay in tune.
The night before, we were served a mescal reposada at Restaurant Zandunga that went down so smooth it was like a well-aged brandy. Its color was a warm golden to match the taste. Tonight, the clear white mescal at 550 pesos a glass, was a not a close second, and I could tell that after one or two sips I would be off into Neverland before getting back to the hotel. It was midnight and time to call it a night. I passed my unfinished glass to Linda. Salud.
More on Mescal
A new mescaleria has opened on Allende, across from Santo Domingo Church, between Macedonio Alcala and Garcia Virgil. It is a beautiful space with sculpture, pottery, glass shelves well stocked with a g-zillion mescal labels, fabulous lighting, and a tasting menu. By nine-thirty in the evening, it is ten people deep trying to belly up to the bar for sipping and tasting. Definitely a great way to sample and explore the mysteries of mescal.