The Franciscans created Puebla as the first true (ha, ha) Spanish city in Mexico, building it from the ground up, not on top of destroyed indigenous religious sites as they had a habit of doing. The Paseo Viejo de San Francisco is a cobblestone walking promenade that connects the church named in honor of St. Francis of Assisi where Hernan Cortes worshipped with upscale shopping, restaurants and hotels. This is a renovated historic area — the oldest part of the city where Puebla was founded. It’s the neighborhood I’m staying in on this visit.
I’m back in Puebla for an overnight before heading to Mexico City and then on to San Francisco for Thanksgiving with my family. I’ve been here so many times in recent years that I can negotiate the avenues by foot and not get lost, returning to some of my favorite spots. It was an all-day walkabout — eight hours total.
Today as I meander, I decide to take a different approach. I look into courtyards where tall, heavy wood gates open slightly give me a glimpse of an interior life. I peer into obscurely lit stores. I see shadows and light, profiles and outlines of figures. I look inside instead of at the stunning Talavera tile and wedding cake plaster facades that captivate visitors.
Still life hides behind high plaster walls through the cracks of gated doors, between the bars of gated churches at altars where no one worships, down alleyways where laundry dries, through windows into storage rooms.
A shop clerk hangs against a door jam, take a drag on a cigarette. Women establish themselves in business with a pile of masa dough and a garbage container filled with charcoal topped with a comal. They will stuff tacos with cheese, chilis, bits of chicken for passersby to grab and eat as they walk on.
Before I leave Puebla, I treat myself to a lunch at what I undoubtedly believe is the best restaurant in the city, El Mural de los Poblanos. Don’t miss it. Spectacular service and perfectly prepared food.
It was a mezcal kind of day for me: first a tamarind mezcal margarita, then a shot glass of Puebla origin mezcal (with worm salt and orange slices) compliments of the manager (that I managed to nurse throughout the 2-1/2 hour meal), a sunflower sprout salad, and shrimps sauteed in mezcal. I finished with a small scoop of house made pumpkin ice cream and a raisin liqueur. Who’s hungry? Did anyone say bed time?
Oaxaca to Durham–Pineapple-Lime Mezcal Cocktail Recipe: Serves Two
Is it a Mezcalini or a Mezcalita?
First you need tasty espadin joven mezcal. My limited stash in NC.
Most of the weight in my checked baggage from Oaxaca, Mexico to Durham, North Carolina, USA was attributed to three bottles of Gracias a Dios mezcal — two of Gin Mezcal and one of Cuixe (also spelled Cuishe, pronounced KWI-SHAY). I had four bottles packed and couldn’t move the luggage, so I reluctantly removed one.
(I buy my Gracias a Dios mezcal directly from Oscar Hernandez, the mezcalero, at his palenque in Santiago Matatlan, Oaxaca, the world capital of mezcal making.) He blends the Gin Mezcal with 32 aromatics including lavendar and juniper berries, ginger and rosemary.
The first pour!
Since I’ve gotten here, I’ve experimented with mixed drinks in addition to loving the aroma and taste of mezcal straight with no flavor additives. A little sip goes a long way! Never throw back a mezcal shot. It’s not done that way.
Start with ripe pineapple (more yellow than this one) and squeezable limes.
For the uninitiated, a Mezcalini is like a Martini in appearance only. Mezcal and pulverized fresh fruit with a bit of simple sugar syrup, are shaken together with ice and strained. Then, the bartender pours the aromatic liquid into a stemmed cocktail glass. Sometimes herbs and spices are added, like rosemary or ginger, in the shaken (not stirred) motif. Serve it straight up.
The Tipsy Glass of liquid gold — Pineapple Lime Mezcalita
But, for my version of a Mezcalini, I prefer to adapt the Margarita, substituting mezcal for the more lowly (IMHO) tequila. In restaurants, I order this as a Mezcal Margarita so no one makes a mistake. I like it over the rocks with a salted rim, garnished with worm salt.
Cut off crown, then bottom, and whack the sides off.
Let’s all now rightfully call this a MEZCALITA.
The classic will be fresh squeezed lime juice, mezcal and Cointreau (in Mexico, look for Controy).
It will look like this when you trimmed off the spines.
In Mexico City, I ordered such a drink on the rooftop terrace of the Gran Hotel Ciudad de Mexico, overlooking the Zocalo. So good, I returned again. And then, once more. It was blended with fresh pineapple and lime juice.
Section into quarters, then cut out the core.
I’ve been working on perfecting the recipe here in Durham, making it for every at-home occasion I can plan. I think I finally have it down, and I’m passing it along to you. No cheating. You can’t use tequila.
Here’s how you cut out the core. No mess.
Cut into 1″ cubes. Get your lime squeezer ready.
Pineapple-Lime Mezcalita Cocktail — Serves 2
In a blender, add together:
4 ounces of Joven mezcal distilled from the Espadin cactus
2 ounces of Cointreau
2 T. simple syrup (dissolve 2 T. sugar in 4 T. boiling water until liquid is clear)
1 C. fresh ripe pineapple, cut into 1″ cubes
2 ounces of freshly squeeze lime juice
6-8 ice cubes, or more for a slushier consistency
Add all ingredients to your blender.
Pulse your blender a few times to mix the ingredients. Then, add the ice cubes and turn speed to LIQUIFY. In seconds, your drink will be ready.
Add your ice cubes, and then …
I have two wonderful, clear, Tipsy Glasses, hand-blown by Asheville glass artist Ben Greene-Colonnese. You can order them online. Not sure where you can find mezcal where you live but definitely worth the search!
Blend on LIQUIFY, pour and enjoy.
We use this lime squeezer throughout Mexico. It’s a part of every kitchen. Mine is the cheapest and totally functional, all aluminum. I’ve had it for years. Where to buy in the USA? Amazon, of course.
At home in Teotitlan del Valle, I have a collection of many favorite brands made from wild agaves like tepeztate and tobala. Some, I bought from the distiller and they are unlabeled and not available for export.
Posted in Cultural Commentary, Food & Recipes, Oaxaca Mexico art and culture, Travel & Tourism
Tagged adult beverage, cocktail, Gracias a Dios, lime, margarita, mescal, Mexico, mezcal, mezcalini, mezcalita, Oaxaca, pineapple