3 Places to Try Mezcal in Oaxaca

by Ekua on December 6, 2011 in eats and drinks,Mexico

Mezcal, the unofficial liquor of Oaxaca, can be an acquired taste. Most fellow travelers I’ve encountered in Oaxaca did not like mezcal at first sip, but almost all seem to leave the city chiming in with the Oaxaca saying, “For everything bad, mezcal. For everything good, mezcal.”

The thing is, mezcal tastes of Oaxaca. It gives you sense of place. It slowly captures you the way Oaxaca has a tendency to do. And when you have to leave the city, its flavor can bring Oaxaca to you.

In the process of making mezcal, hearts of the maguey, a type of agave, are roasted in the earth for three days before the juice is extracted. This, combined with the fact that it is typically only distilled once, differentiates its rustic and smoky flavor from that of the more smooth tequila.

Intrigued? Here are three Oaxaca watering holes where you can go from a mezcal novice to a bonafide mezcal appreciator:

» Beginner: La Casa del Mezcal

This is the most obvious mezcal starting point; it’s well known and conveniently located near the bustle of the Zocalo. Its walls are adorned with murals of absurdly muscular warrior men fending off enemies, which sets the tone for a kind of laughable bravado-heavy atmosphere. Decore aside, here you can try all the types of mezcal at a price that will fit into your budget. Mezcal is traditionally sipped as is, and Casa del Mezcal accompanies it with orange slices and chili salt to help make it go down easier if need be.

Calle Flores Magón, between Calle Las Casas and Calle Aldama
Centro Histórico
Oaxaca City, Oaxaca

» Intermediate: La Farola

La Farola is a classy but down-to-earth establishment that was founded in 1916 and claims to be oldest cantina in Oaxaca city. Beyond the wooden doors that are reminiscent of an old Western film, it’s a lovely spot for a slightly more swanky night and there is sometimes live music. While the selection of mezcal does not seem to be as vast the Casa del Mezcal, they have good options to choose from. And as long as you’re drinking mezcal, they’ll provide the snacks.

Calle 20 de Noviembre, between Calle Las Casas and Calle Trujano
Colonia Centro Histórico
Oaxaca City, Oaxaca
Phone: 951-516-5352

» Advanced: Cuish

Shannon Young is a Oaxaca-based radio reporter who came across my site after I started blogging about last summer’s trip to Oaxaca. This year, we got a chance to meet in Oaxaca and I sensed that she would know of some great spots that were hidden to the average visitor.

After eating delicious memelas at a food stand, we headed over to Cuish which was a wonderful discovery. Cuish is the name of both the bar and the mezcal they create and sell. It’s a small space, and the atmosphere there more resembles a tasting room of small scale bohemian winery than it does a bar. When I entered, I could immediately sense that a lot of love and passion went into creating it. The mezcal there is something unique; you can really taste the agave in it. It’s not often that a liquor brings about an appreciation for the cosmos, but that’s exactly what this earthy mezcal did.

Calle Diaz Ordaz 712
Centro Histórico
Oaxaca City, Oaxaca
Phone: 951-516-8791

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Marsha December 7, 2011 at 2:24 pm

Wow. Up until today I had no desire to visit Oaxaca but I almost want to just to taste some Mezcal, lol!


Ekua December 9, 2011 at 1:37 pm

Well I’m glad that out of all my posts on Oaxaca, this is the one that convinced you 😛


Isaac December 7, 2011 at 2:39 pm

Thanks for teaching me a new spot. I’ll try Cuish soon.


Ekua December 9, 2011 at 1:39 pm

Glad to share it. I think they’re doing something really unique with mezcal and in the world of liquor in general. They’re bringing the environmentally conscious food movement to an area that hasn’t yet been accessed very much!


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