Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Today we took a colectivo, a type of shared taxi, to one of Oaxaca's suburbs, Malatlan. Although this is a small town, it is literally covered with mezcal distilleries and little shops called expendios. We got dropped off on the highway and went to the first distillery we saw. There we tasted about five different varieties of Mezcal, and bought a small bottle. We decided that we probably should eat something before continuing to imbibe, so we walked into the downtown area and had some empanadas, Sarah had one with pumpkin flowers, and mine was filled with chicken in an orange sauce. The owner of the food stand that we ate at recommended another mezcal distillery about fifteen minutes up the road. We walked over a river and down the highway to arrive at El Rey Zapotec where we got quite an education. Aside from the regional differences, tequila is made from blue agave, whereas mezcal is made from green agave. The plants have to grow for about twelve yars before they are harvested. Then the bottom portion is cooked for four days over hot coals while covered in dirt. Then it is ground up using a horse-drawn cement wheel as it has been done for centuries. The ground up agave is then mixed with water and allowed to ferment. Eventually it is distilled twice, and viola, mezcal!

There are quite a few varieties of mezcal, young and old, aged in different types of barrels, etc. Some of the more interesting varieties we found were pechuga, which entails having a turkey breast in the distiller, tobala, which is made using wild agave instead of farm grown agave, and maracuya, which is passionfruit flavored. There are also a variety of flavored mezcals and cream mezcals such as coffee, cappuccino, mocha, almond, peanut, blackberry, strawberry, and many more (you can see them in the picture). We did end up buying a bottle from El Rey Zapotec, and also continued up the highway to another distillery where we tested their products and picked up a bottle. Needless to say there were many free samples at all the distilleries. (Sarah may have been a little slober.)

Coming home was quite interesting, we basically started walking back towards Oaxaca on the highway and after a couple minutes a colectivo drove by and picked us up. It was a small Nissan Tsuru (think Honda civic) and even though there was only one open seat, the driver beckoned to us to get in. He managed to squeeze two people in the front seat and we continued down the highway quite a ways. At some point the woman in the back seat next to us got out and a young man named Efrain got in. He was also heading to Oaxaca for school, studying computer engineering and also taking a class in English. Turns out he eventually wants to move to the USA and live in San Francisco and work for there, he said he was specifically studying networking and software. Finally we reached Oaxaca and the driver let us out about ten or twelve blocks from where we needed to go, for some reason there was an immense amount of traffic and we were able to walk much faster than he could have driven us. It was an interesting walk too, we picked up a sliced grapefruit that the vendor poured some chili sauce and chili pepper on, quite delicious!

So here we are, planning to go get some dinner and maybe some of the hot chocolate that Oaxaca is famous for, then drink some of that mezcal we bought!