30 July 2008

El Espíritu del Lugar

That, I hope, translates as Spiritus Loci, or The Spirit of the Place. For Oaxaca, it is Benevá. Benevá is mezcal. I found the añejo to be the most pleasing--a complex drink with a peated-whisky smokiness.

Like tequila, mezcal is made from agave. It has a similar overall nose and flavor, and not being much of a tequila drinker, I was not prepared to like mezcal all that much. But when you are in a place, the flavor of the local spirit takes on new qualities. It is almost as if you have to enjoy the drink. And enjoy I did. The city has several Benevá shops, including one in the airport, where a pretty señorita will fix you up with a bottle or two or three. We sat on the patio of the B&B most days and sipped the añejo, and sampled the blanco (drier, and to me, harsher) as well. They have a "worm" product, the con Gusano de Maguey, which we didn't purchase. It was not from a sense of squeamishness--I didn't know what con Gusano meant at the time! In fact, you get a baggie of a dry, yellowish powder called sal gusano (worm salt) with your purchase. It is a chaser, supposedly. At the pre-wedding cocktail party, the local hombres had us drinking the mezcal with a lick of sal gusano, a bite of lime, then the shot. I bought the blanco only because I thought the con Gusano was merely blanco with the sal pre-mixed. Duh. Sometimes you have to embrace being an ignorant tourist. Regardless, I embraced El Espíritu de Oaxaca, and came home with an enhanced appreciation for an authentic native drink.


p.s. I was tempted to call this post "I went all the way to México and all I got was this stupid mezcal bottle tag." Be glad I didn't.

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