One of the Oaxaca’s most treasured exports is mezcal. The people here are fiercely proud of this intoxicating substance, which is made from the agave plant (just like tequila) and with good reason – it’s delicious. If you have never tried mezcal before, you can think of it as the cousin of tequila. It definitely has a similar quality but it is much smokier and warmer, and I think much easier to drink. The smokiness takes away that harsh edge that makes tequila not so appealing for me.
As part of Oaxaca’s Guelaguetza celebrations, there is a festival that is completely dedicated to mezcal, Feria del Mezcal, and it takes over Llano park, one of the largest parks in downtown Oaxaca. The festival kicked off on July 19th, and boozehound that I am, I am proud to say that I was one of the first people through the doors. The festival continues until July 29th and during that time, everybody is welcome to join in the party and get better acquainted with mezcal from Oaxaca.
A few Oaxacan people had told me about the festival before so I kind of new what I was in for. Stands from various mezcal producers would be erected in the park, you pay an entrance fee, and you get to sample the different mezcals. But I was totally amazed by how cheap a ticket is. For just 40 pesos (that’s two quid!) you can enter the park and try unlimited mezcals. I arrived at 8 o’clock and I kept on boozing until the doors closed at 11.30. That’s three and a half hours of solid boozin’!
There were more than a handful of stalls and as soon as I entered the park, it was clear that this was going to be one boozey night. I tried five different kinds of mezcal at the first stall alone. Generally speaking, there are two broad kinds of mezcal you can drink. The first is pure mezcal, which can be served in a young or aged form, much like tequila. I prefer the aged mezcal as the smoky taste is more pronounced in it. This stuff ranges from 35% to 50% alcohol so it’s not for people who can’t handle their drink. Lightweights move aside. And then there are the flavoured mezcals. This are either mezcal creams or syrups and they are generally used in cocktails. I prefer the straight mezcal because I’m not into sweet drinks, but it was actually nice to have something with a refreshing mango taste to break up the endless downing of mezcal after mezcal after mezcal.
The mezcal creams come in soooo many different flavours. During the course of the evening I tried coconut, cajeta (like a Mexican caramel), coffee, mocha, chocolate, mint-chocolate, banana, mango, strawberry, blackberry, pine nut, pomegranate, pina colada, pistachio, peach, and probably a tonne of other flavours that I have already forgotten. My favourites of the night were mocha, pistachio, and peach, and my award for most disgusting mezcal was definitely a chilli-cheese flavour. Full on revolting.
Because you are drinking little samplers, the booziness of the night really creeps up on you. Halfway through, I felt fine. But ultimately, I got super wasted. I can’t remember leaving, I can’t remember getting home. My friend told me that I was so drunk that I bought flowers from a woman on the street and then ate them. ATE THEM.
If you are in Oaxaca and want to be a drunken hot mess like me, I highly recommend attending this splendid celebration of all things mezcal. For more information about the festival, check out their official Facebook page.