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margarita, isn't really drunk by Mexicans.
Their preferred drink is the paloma, a mix of
Tequila, lime juice and the brilliantly named
grapefruit soda Squirt (to make the drink in
the UK, try using Ting instead).
The rise of mezcal
A ight from Guadalajara via Mexico
City takes us to Oaxaca City, the place to
immerse yourself in all things related to
mezcal. Tequila's smoky cousin has been
enjoying a lot of attention in the past two
years, and the artistic state of Oaxaca is
the spirit's heartland.
The best place to learn about mezcal is
dimly lit bar Mezcaloteca, which feels like
a cool mini-library dedicated to the spirit.
Our hostess, Andrea Hagan, gives us a full
rundown of the category, explaining that
there are a lot of di erent varieties of agave
that can be used to make mezcal, as well as
running us through production techniques
and pouring plenty of samples to taste.
Whereas Tequila distilleries run from large
factory-size establishments down to
the smaller 'craft' level, they feel streets
ahead of mezcal production in terms
of development, which is still a cottage
industry, with one or two exceptions.
A visit to Santiago Matatlán - a
45-minute drive out of Oaxaca - brings
this into sharp relief, as you watch donkeys
in small huts dragging mill wheels, called
tahonas, around to crush the agave plants.
Wander down the main road and sample
some of the wares on display, but eschew
anything with a worm (quality mezcal
doesn't contain such things), and steer clear
of the lurid, avoured crema de mezcals,
HOW TO GET THERE
British Airways ies to Mexico
City from £802 return. britishairways.com
Connecting ights from Mexico City to
Guadalajara and Oaxaca City are available
with Aeromexico from £117.30 and £182.50
Tour company Experience Tequila
(experiencetequila.com) can put together
customised itineraries in Jalisco. To visit
Matatlán from Oaxaca, taxis are easy
to nd and hire for the day.
WHEN TO GO
Any time, although coastal and
low-lying regions are fairly hot and humid
during the months from May to September.
WHERE TO STAY
Hacienda La Magdalena
Doubles from £77 in Zapopan, 10km from
Hotel Palacio Borghese
Doubles from £133. Unexpected neoclassical
decor in the historical heart of Oaxaca City.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK
El Barco, Zapopan, Jalisco
Unassuming sh restaurant on the Mercado
del Mar that serves the ceviche of your
dreams. +52 33 3636 9783
La Capilla, Tequila, Jalisco
No-frills cantina owned by Tequila legend
Don Javier Delgado Corona, who tended bar
here for more than 50 years. +52 37 4103 9204
Carnitas Jaime's, Arandas, Jalisco
Pork restaurant with takeaway taqueria
kitchen on the front. Impressive Tequila
selection on the bar. +52 34 8783 1675
Mezcaloteca, Oaxaca City, Oaxaca
The perfect place to learn about mezcal.
Reservations only. +52 01 951 514 0082
FIND OUT MORE
bars � drink
TEQUILA 101 Tequila can only be made out of one type
of agave, known as Blue Weber, or Azul.
According to Tequila laws, only 51% agave
juice needs to be used to make Tequila. The
rest can be made up from other sugars.
Many Tequila companies pride themselves
on only making 100% agave Tequila - if it
doesn't say this on the label, it will probably
be a 'mixto'.
There are ve di erent types of Tequila:
blanco (unaged); gold (often unaged, this is
coloured with caramel); reposado (aged in
oak barrels for between two months and
a year); añejo (aged in barrels for between
one and three years); and extra añejo (aged
in barrels for a minimum of three years).
Sip it, don't shoot it.
which by all accounts the locals don't touch.
Back in Oaxaca, we round things o with
a visit to the pasillo de carnes asadas (grilled
meats hall) in the 20 de Noviembre market,
where I pick out the meat I want barbecued
and settle in to watch the local families
enjoy dinner together.
Our nal stop is tiny mezcal bar Los
Amantes, where you'll often nd guitarists
playing to a dancing throng. We buy a ight
of their mezcals and get lost in the spirits -
and beats - of Mexico.
Clockwise from far
left: the Jose Cuervo
distillery; some of its
nest wares; Tequila
should be sipped;
the legendary La
de mariscos; Tequila
Estes (left) and top
takeaway counter at