BIT Blog

An Iguanas Guide to Posadas

We want to teach you how to do Christmas Mexico style. While the Posada originated in Spain, it has become one of the largest holiday traditions in Mexico, Guatemala and the South-Western United States. Posadas last for 9 nights (or just one if you’re on the lazy, less traditional side) starting on the 16th of December and wrapping up on Christmas Eve. They usually happen between 8 and 10 in the evening, so pre-gaming early is essential. Why? Because you and your friends will be singing call and response to decide if you’re going to let them pass out inside on the couch …or outside in the grass. 

Posadas have taken place for the last 400 years when early Catholic friars wanted to merge Christmas with the Aztec celebration of the birth of their god Huitzilopochtli. The custom is that several families in any given neighborhood take a night to act as innkeepers. With a nativity scene to mark the spot, the pilgrims come to the door carrying candles and singing a petition to stay there for the night. Four of the pilgrims bring statues of Mary, Joseph and her donkey. 

At each of the potential inns the song dictates that the pilgrims are refused entry (sobriety notwithstanding.) The tequila donkey is close, which is important for the sanity of these exhausted travelers who just want a spot to relax. After lots of “no”s they finally reach the designated place for the party and the fun begins (or continues …it depends on how you look at it.) Tequila is a crucial element to the equation because let’s face it, the more you drink the louder you sing …and the less you feel your feet.  

At the party, tequila isn’t the only traditional guest. Piñatas and a delicious drinks like Ponche and Rompope about, along with more singing. You better hope you’re at least half-way to being tanked because at this point you’re expected to socialize with strangers and sing, which may or may not be your forte. For me, I’d prefer the latter but it all depends on the amount of tequila you ingest.

An Iguana Attends Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) is my favorite national Mexican holiday. That makes sense considering it’s the Mexican version of Halloween, which is Mittie Iguana’s favorite holiday stateside (though Day of the Dead long predates it and is significantly cooler.) It happens between October 31st and November 2nd and while it is in conjunction with the Catholic holiday All Saints Day (Nov. 1) and All Souls Day (Nov. 2), it is one of the greatest parties of the year. Yet another great excuse to break out the tequila, only this time it’s to honor the dead.

Sean Reagan Photography

Sean Reagan Photography

The celebration of Day of the Dead in Mexico reaches back 3000 years to various indigenous peoples who celebrated their ancestors and used symbols such as the human skull to represent life and death. More specifically, hundreds of years ago the Aztecs had a month long festival in the fall honoring “the Lady of the Dead,” currently know as the Catrina. 

The Catrina is still the most prominent symbol of Day of the Dead here in Mexico. They are skeletons in dressed in elegant dresses, gloves and enormous hats with flowers. They may be presented in sculpture, rice and bean mosaics, and even as tequila drinking fools (like yours truly) who dress up as Catrinas to party (with respect of course.) Other symbols include delicately decorated sugar skulls (less gruesome than the real thing), prayer flags and marigolds.

Sean Reagan Photography

Sean Reagan Photography

The modern celebration enters around building altars for the loved ones who have died or to honor long-since passed ancestors. Often, people create altars for famous public figures who have died like Frida Kahlo or Diego Rivera. The altar usually consists of a photo of the person surrounded by their favorite things and fresh marigolds. Their favorite things traditionally include food and drinks, particularly of the alcoholic variety. As you can imagine the most popular booze around these parts is tequila …and so we indulge in honor of those who have gone before us and of the many agaves that died to produce our beverage of choice.

An Iguana's History of the Caballito

Here in Mexico, caballito is a very common word. This “little horse” refers the traditional tall, thin shot glass holding between 1 and 2 ounces of tequila. For sipping, of course. We all know tequila is not to shoot …unless you’ve clearly had way too many and the floor is starting to blur. Or you’re toting a gun.

Little horses got their name because men often found it funny to have their horses piss in each other’s tequilas when they weren’t looking. Just kidding. We only do that in the office. Really the name descends from cuernito, which means “little horn.” They removed the interior of bull or cow horns and cleaned them to make a manly looking chalice of sorts. They didn’t, however, have the option to set it down until the libation had been finished (a sneaky way to get people drunk really fast.) Considering the limited number of horns, there was a slam and pass philosophy. 

Man chalice, otherwise known as cuernito

The classic caballito holding the classic Bandera de Mexico Later, the tip was removed so a drinker could take their time, and it was this design that became the modern caballito. They do still make the traditional horn cups and I want to say, as an official statement, that if you drink Blue Iguana Tequila out of one I will consider you a bonafide badass. Just to be clear.

Recently, the CRT decided on a more uppity tequila glass, which resembles a wine glass with the classic tall stem and tapered bowl. Riedel makes the CRT approved version because it “highlights and enhances the characteristics” of a good tequila. Some tequila experts prefer añejos in a snifter because the shape traps the scents more efficiently. While fancy glasses are nice and all, they break a lot easier. Especially if you’re loaded. And down here in Mexico, little has changed. Most still proudly rock the caballito. This iguana is one of them.

For a great source of tequila know-how, visit Ian Chadwick's informative site. 

5 Travel Tips for Mexico

The last thing any iguana (or traveler) wants is to get sick, and though it often comes with the territory, there are simple ways to prevent it. Or most of it. If you do find yourself sick in Mexico, we just want to report that our empirical medical evidence suggests that Blue Iguana Tequila can kill even the heartiest parasite.

Water

You know the old adage “don’t drink the water?” Well don’t. If it comes from the tap, it can contain bacteria, amoebas or a whole host of other parasites. Some hostels, restaurants or guest houses have an in house filtration system, but unless notified directly, drink bottled only. Garafones, the five gallon jugs of water, are what you’ll see most commonly. This water is purified and safe to drink. When on the move, it’s always good to stay hydrated, but if you hit the tap in the middle of a thirsty night, you may regret it. 

Bottled water is the safest thing next to tequila

Salsa

Beware the salsa! When in doubt, drink more tequila. 

Eating on the street can be totally safe or laden with parasites. It really depends on the climate, the specific location and whether you have an iron-traveler-stomach. The most important (and most painful) thing to avoid is the salsa (a single tear.) Though I genuinely lament saying it, the salsa is a breeding ground for bacteria. There are several reasons for this. If it’s a stand on the street, they generally have no refrigeration. The salsa is made in the morning and then left out all day in the heat. These are prime cultivation conditions. If there is an inside seating area, then the salsa will be better preserved (usually in a fridge, if not a soda cooler), and thusly, at your delighted disposal to eat. 

Fruit and Veggies

If you err on the side of caution or if, like me, you’ve had typhoid, you may prefer to prepare your own grub wherever you lay your head. Fruit and veggies (especially the ones with edible skin or roots), which are scrumptious in this area of the world, must be disinfected for 10 – 15 minutes in an iodine solution called “micro-dyn” or “bac-dyn.”  If you prefer a softer, more natural approach to parasite assassination, there is a grapefruit seed concentrate that can be used in lieu of iodine, but in order to find it you have to be somewhere that has natural food stores.  

Fresh fish or no fish.

This seems like common sense, but if you’re landlocked, only eat seafood at restaurants that have high turnover. A good rule of thumb is if they sell a lot, it comes in fresh a lot. Often, freezers are turned off at night, allowing meat, fish and other frozen items to thaw slightly and refreeze. Bad news for your stomach. If you’re not by a coast, don’t eat ceviche or sushi. If you are near a coast, rock it out. Because what’s more delicious than ceviche? If you buy fish at a market or grocery store to cook it where you’re staying (and again, you’re not by the ocean) be sure you ask for it “bien congelado” (well-frozen.)

Shoes

Wear them. I’m all for you peace-loving hippie types, but soil transmitted parasites are no joke. While they can be ingested through unwashed fruits and vegetables, the larvae can also directly penetrate the skin (especially the feet.) The most common example is hookworm. You don’t need to have a cut or even a blister to get infected. In other words, get some huaraches and keep them on your feet. 

Have you traveled in Mexico? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Revolution Cocktail Recipe

The year is 1810 and Spain holds a tight territorial leash on our dear country Mexico. It is an early September morning and an oppressed Mexican community awaits a priest named Hidalgo on their beloved church steps in the city of Dolores. They did not know that the words they would soon hear would catapult their lives into liberation. It is on September 16th  of the year 1810 that Catholic Priest , Hidalgo, ignited the fire in the indigenous people to retaliate against their oppressors. This revolutionary events is known as the “Cry of Dolores “ and celebrated today as the Mexican ‘Dia de Independencia’ .

Fast forward to the year 2011. Don Roger launches a world class product that starts a revolution of its own. It’s a spirit that preserves the flavor of the marvelous Agave Weber plant while celebrating the rich culture of Mexico. If you haven't had the pleasure of experiencing it for yourself, we can assure you – it’s the perfect combination for your Dia de Indepencia festivities. 

See how we tied that little history lesson together? 

So, maybe you find yourself hosting a Dia de independence party? We’ve taken the liberty of finding the ideal drink recipe for the occasion: the Mexico Revolution!

Remember to drink responsibly, enjoy and Viva Mexico !!!!

México Revolucion: A fresh drink full of life, just like our México, querido y lindo.

Ingredients:
•      2 oz.  of Tequila REVOLUCION 100 PROOF

•      1 lime

•      1 lime supreme

•      Lime zest (1/2 lime)

•      Orange zest (1/4 orange)

•      1 dash of Natural Syrup

•      Grain salt

•      Worm salt

Preparation:
Stir the lime juice in a glass with a touch of natural syrup. Then, add crushed ice and the lime and orange zest. Last, add the grain salt. Serve it up with a shot of tequila. Stir the shot into the glass and observe how the elements merge while you pour it.


TIP: If you do not have worm salt, frost the glass with salt, mixed with ground-roasted peppers.


source: https://www.keyingredient.com/recipes/12347177/mexico-tequila-revolucion/

The Pilgrimage to Tequila

Sometimes one is granted the rare privilege of being present during the telling of an epic saga……a continuation of the Timeless Human Oral Tradition.  When a person is so graced, the best course is to simply fade into the background and function as a humble scribe—because while the homosapien storytelling tradition is indeed venerable and strong, our memories ain’t what they used to be.  And events of great import must be entered into The Record.

And so it is with The Pilgrimage to Tequila.

A longtime friend, let’s call him “Hasenpfeffer” since I’ve been asked to employ aliases here to protect the guilty, hails, as I do, from Texas (I know, I know…….but what can we say?.......we were not consulted when we were whelped).  And growing up in Texas, we were subject to not only an unfortunate market saturation of Cuervo Gold tequila (no better options being available…..the competition was Armadillo Tequila, which we never stooped to even in moments of impoverished student desperation), but also to a dubious chuckle-headed tradition of tequila shots. 

We’re not proud, you understand.  We’re just saying…….

All of which coalesced to give us a certain long-standing familiarity with, and ongoing consumption of, tequila.  And as these things are wont to go, a certain mythological miasma came to be associated with our past, current and future consumption of tequila.  I think the audio equivalent of this vibe would be listening to the Flaco Jimenez/Dwight Yokum remake of Warren Zevon’s “Carmelita” through underwater speakers while sitting at the bottom of a swimming pool that is not as clean as it might be.

So, when Hasenpfeffer saw a story in the Wall Street Journal about a mysterious train ride to the town of Tequila, Mexico, in the state of Jalisco, he was seized with a strong and insistent urge to GO.  The legendary birthplace of tequila, so it was whispered!  As he telephoned two of his Galveston buddies, the road trip was already morphing in his mind into something more…..a quest that would inspire song, burnish loins, and result in the kind of stories that you could (but would not!) tell the grandchildren. 

With this kind of impetus at play, the two friends (let’s call them “Seabiscuit” and “Snord”) were soon infected with Hasenpfeffer’s zeal and before you knew it, Wheels Were In Motion.  One short plane ride to San Miguel de Allende later, followed by a bus (that, crucially, allowed passengers to bring coolers aboard) to Guadalajara, and suddenly the threesome saw their chariot. 

The train.

I think we all can agree that our heroes can be forgiven if their memories of the train have romanticized the conveyance a bit, eliminating the chicken smells and thoughts of the truly-deplorable state of the communal bathroom (this latter may be a coping mechanism employed by the human brain after experiencing extreme multi-sensory trauma).  But if the term “legendary” inherently implies great age and scars born of experience, then there was no question that The Train to Tequila fit the bill.  It was, for lack of a better word, funky.

But it had a bar.  And more than that, it seemed to be full of other gringos who had read the same article and subsequently heard The Call.  Upon inspection, Seabiscuit reported that the bar seemed to be extremely-well stocked with not only copacetically-priced Mexican beer but also with the beverage for which their destination was named.  Amidst the jovial atmosphere in the bar car, a great wheezing and grating was heard, followed by a flatulent chuffing and a hesitant forward motion.  The pilgrimage to Tequila was now right and truly under way! 

As the train picked up speed, there was a collective sense of hurtling toward some mystery….some Great Unknowable.  Consumption in the bar car accelerated apace, with many toasts, cheers and new friendships struck in the libationary haze. 

Then the train broke down. 

As Hasenpfeffer translated the bartender’s report, relayed from the conductor, Snord uttered a Spanglish expletive he’d heard in San Antonio that was, if truth be known, unwise for a Gringo to use in Mexico.  But he got away with it, with only a bit of stink-eye from the staff, and after 40 minutes in the motionless, steaming, un-airconditioned bar car, a great huzzah echoed as the train began to scrape its way forward.  Spirits lifted.  “Look at all that cacti!”, someone exclaimed. 

“Is it agave?”

“It’s sort of blue-ish.”

And so consumption in the bar car regained its jubilant aspect, and all seemed well.  Despite the exalted mood,  however, Hasenpfeffer could not help but notice that the bathroom, which had not been in any way acceptable at the start of the journey, had become so thoroughly objectionable that increased personal drunkenness did not, as is usually the case, make it easier to enter and use.  At the end of his third visit, eyes watering and stomach queasing, Hasenpfeffer vowed to himself that he was not going back in there under any set of circumstances.  Feeling resolute, he strode purposely back across the rolling deck to the bar.

An hour later, the train broke down again.  Or maybe the engineer just needed a nap.  No one knew, and this time explanations were not forthcoming.  As it turned out, there would be five such stops on the tracks during the journey…..Sometimes at a collection of shacks that may or may not have warranted being designated with a name, and sometimes just plain smack in the middle of nowhere.  The mood swings in the bar car were oscillating all over the place, and mutiny was only suppressed via the outstandingly-well stocked nature of the bar itself (although the lack of true options for egress undoubtedly had something to do with it). 

During one of these unscheduled stops, Hasenpfeffer felt a familiar bodily claxon that made his blood run cold.  Oh, no!  He had to pee. 

His resolve to never again re-enter the 7th Level of Hell, otherwise known as the bathroom on the train to Tequila, remained unwavering.  And, in hindsight, it must be said that he was somewhat worse for wear from the hot, exuberant hours in the bar car.  This manifested itself not only in a certain lack of judgment but also in a 52% impairment of motor skills. But being in that moment unaware of these handicaps, Hasenpfeffer was instantly seized with what seemed at the time a brilliant and jaunty idea.

I’ll just step off the train and pee outside, he thought triumphantly!

And so he did.

[scribe’s note:  In the retelling of this saga, Hasenpfeffer displayed a certain reluctance to describe the details of what happened next.  What were his thought processes?  Didn’t he hear the train begin to move?  Was it merely a whizz of unusual duration, as will happen to a sporting man from time to time?  Hasenpfeffer will not say, and so we are left to speculate.  But one thing is clear:  the train left and he was not on it.]

There is an idiomatic phrase in the English language that I will attempt to paraphrase here without offending the sensibilities of the more delicate readers of this blog:  Hasenpfeffer was left standing beside the railroad tracks in Central Mexico with his schwantz, both literally and metaphorically, in his hand.

Wouldn’t Seabiscuit and Snord notice his absence and move heaven and earth to stop the train?  Wasn’t there usually some guy who stood at the railings of the caboose in all trains, watching for just this sort of eventuality?

Evidently not.

[scribe’s note:  Now I know what some of you are thinking:  that any trip that begins with a reading of the Wall Street Journal deserves to end in tears.  And you would not be wrong in thinking that.]

As the reality of his situation slowly seeped in, Hasenpfeffer’s only comfort was that post-game feeling of soul-deep relief and euphoria that always follows such a well-needed expatriation of urea, chlorides, potassium, etc.   And this, he knew from past experience, would only last so long.  And so, grimly, he started walking, following the tracks in the direction of the quickly-disappearing train.

 

INTERMISSION:  time for a cocktail:  Try this Baja favorite: 

The Blue Shark

--1.5 oz. Blue Iguana Silver Tequila

--1.5 oz. vodka

--1.5 oz. blue Curaçao

--to a cocktail shaker full of ice, add everything and shake well.  Strain over rocks.

 

The pilgrimage to Tequila had certainly been epic so far, Hasenpfeffer thought as he trudged mile after weary mile along the railroad tracks.  He had long since given up his fantasy of seeing the train reappearing in frantic reverse to reclaim such an important passenger…….an emissary from the United States of America, no less!  At this juncture, he could only shake his head ruefully at having lost the quest, and the brotherhood of his fellow tequila knights, over a nasty train bathroom and a good ol’ outdoor country piss.

There was no one in sight, and the views were long.  There was no habitations anywhere on the horizon.  The sun beat down cruelly, and he had only the half bottle of Tres Equis he’s exited the train with.  So at least there was that, he thought, although it was getting sort of back-washy.  And so he kept walking.

After a period of time he was utterly unable to gauge, Hasenpfeffer thought he saw something way off in the distance, where the tracks disappeared over the edge of the world.  Were those buildings?  His pace quickened.  Yes!  The flat beer now long drained, he walked with a renewed sense of purpose.  As the buildings got closer, he could tell that the train was there, and stopped!  He began to run.  After another twenty minutes, Hasenpfeffer staggered into the town of Tequila. 

Hot, sweaty, thirsty (and maybe needing to pee again!), Hasenpfeffer clambered back onto the train.  But the bar car was empty.  Not even a note from the traitorous Seabiscuit and Snord.  Feeling more than a little disgruntled, and starting to mutter ominously, he saw a figure approaching as he stepped back off the little train.  It was the bartender, who displayed no surprise at seeing Hasenpfeffer standing there.  In answer to a quick question in Spanish, the bartender replied “Senor, your amigos have left the train.”  Trying to be polite in the face of such a stunningly-obvious observation, Hasenpfeffer asked if the man knew where they might have gone.

“The gringos are all drinking in the café in the square, senor.” 

After hastily getting directions, Hasenpfeffer hurried off toward the town square.  Although he was possibly not aware of it, his muttering increased in volume and vehemence.  With a mixture of guilt and satisfaction, Hasenpfeffer realized that he had never paid his (quite substantial) bar tab from the train.  This provided a welcome distraction for his simmering brain.  After scuffing several blocks down the dusty streets of Tequila, he began to hear faint but increasing sounds of merriment. 

His pace quickened.

Upon reaching the ubiquitous town square, so familiar from all the other small Mexican towns he had visited in his life, Hasenpfeffer zeroed in on familiar voices coming from a mass of gringos crowded around rickety metal tables outside a corner cantina.  Amidst the rowdy and slightly woozy pale-faced throng, there sat Seabiscuit and Snord, feet up on the railing, cold beers in hand, drained shot glasses arrayed about the table between half-eaten bowls of carne en su jugo.  Sitting between them was a gray-haired, dilapidated hippy with a maple leaf flag sewed onto his battered duffel bag.  He seemed vague but content.

“Hasenpfeffer!  Where you been buddy? “, hollered Snord.  “Come over here and meet our new friend Scoot….he’s Canadian, man!”  All three men smiled innocently in the new arrival’s direction.

Hasenpfeffer was speechless.  Standing in the street, not even knowing where to begin.  A vein throbbed on his forehead.  He wanted to throw the Tres Equis bottle at them, but suddenly realized he no longer had it. 

Just then, at this crux of the crisis, a beautiful young Mexican girl approached Hasenpfeffer and asked him a very pivotal question: 

“¿Quieres algo a tomar?

Hasenpfeffer paused.  I want to kill my two friends, of course, but yes……yes, I would like something to drink, he thought.  And so following some very comprehensive ordering, he took the chair that Seabiscuit dragged over for him and sat at the table.

“Man, the food is great here!”, Snord raved.  “After we eat and have some more beers, we’re taking a cab over to the place where they make the tequila.  We made it, man!”, he enthused, slapping Hasenpfeffer on the back and smiling in an unfocused way.  Seabiscuit smiled blearily at him from the other side of the table.  Scoot seemed to doze.  Then the waitress arrived with a tray full of cold Carta Blancas and some more chips and hot sauce.  And just like that, his anger left him.  All quests had their arcs of travails and the overcoming of staggering odds, right?  And sure, I could have died and had my body eaten by iguanas by the side of the tracks, but I didn’t, right?  And after all, Snord was right:  we Made It.  Made it to Tequila.  Hasenpfeffer flagged the waitress and ordered four shots of the town’s namesake.

--CODA:  part of the writing of a great saga is knowing when to end it.  And so your humble scribe is omitting the denouement involving the ride to the tequila distillery, where the taxi driver proved remarkably tolerant until the banging on the roof of his cab that accompanied the full-throated singing of “Satisfaction” threatened the structural integrity of his conveyance/ livelihood.  Suffice to say that our band arrived, was toured and feted with free añejos, reposados and even some bootleg pulque from a jug in the back of a truck out back.   And it was Good.

The Culture of Jalisco

Many of the most common elements of Mexican culture come from the state of Jalisco. There are two famous styles of music, Mariachi and Ranchero, along with several subgenres and dances, traditional clothing and hats, mezcal and, of course, tequila (we can’t forget that one!). Mariachi bands are big and are usually comprised of stringed instruments, however, they may also include brass or wind instruments as well. They wear beautifully embroidered, matching ensembles that are just plain awesome. 

Jarabes and Sons, two types of songs found in Mariachi music, began in Jalisco. Jarabes, though originally religious, gained political popularity during the Mexican Revolution (Viva Mexico!) Sons, on the other hand, come from the southern part of the state and their Spanish influenced guitar later evolved into other modern, salsa-inspired Cuban rhythms.

Though typically all members of the Mariachi band can sing, they often play behind famous Ranchero singers. Ranchero also stems from the revolutionary period (although now it’s common in other areas of Mexico.) Their songs are usually about love or patriotism, two things Mexico does quite well.

Jalisco’s famous clothing includes the wide-brimmed sombrero and the typical woman’s dress, which consists of a brightly colored long skirt and loose fitting shirt woven with ribbons. Though this outfit has become a symbol of the Mexican woman, it ironically originates with the rich Spanish women of the viceroy's court who wore silks and brocades laced with ribbons. Female soldiers in the revolution wore this type of dress to stick it to the Spanish. Right on gun-toting ladies! We support irreverence in all forms.

So pour up some tequila, turn on some romantic Ranchero music and (if you’re lucky) snuggle up with a Mexican hottie (ribbons included) and salute Jalisco - the home of Tequila.

 

Iguanas in Tequila

After the gut-wrenching ride from San Miguel de Allende to Guanajuato we entered Jalisco, the state of Mexico where the town Tequila hides alongside the posh metropolis Guadalajara, and spied a tiny cowboy on a full size horse. The bluish hue of the textured landscape wasn’t the reflection of the heavy grey clouds hanging over me nor a denim-clad army of hard-working jimadores. It was the first of many Blue Agave Tequiliana Weber fields, the bewitched plant responsible for an intoxicating beverage that causes unsuspecting drinkers to break things that they have little to no consciousness they were ever in contact with.

Driving along La Ruta de Tequila, little Oak trees dotted purple mountains in the distance: forested land filled with cattle and haciendas, avocado farms followed by Bougainvillea vines, terraced hills of Agave enclosed in foot-high loose stone walls and separated by delicate green grass. Mexican men rode by on horseback and tequila barrels lined each street. I passed an above ground cemetery in pastel colors (where Herradura distills their tequila) framed by dormant green volcanoes in the distance thinking that the name of the town comes from the indigenous Nahuatl meaning a place of tribute, and that it is. Drunken tribute.

Behind the scenes at our agave harvest with filmmaker Janosh Chassan and photographer Sean Reagan. 

Behind the scenes at our agave harvest with filmmaker Janosh Chassan and photographer Sean Reagan. 

In four-wheel drive, the distiller and I zoomed through the winding mountain trails till we reached the cloud line, overlooking a vine-laden gorge and reservoir below. Though I’d passed Agave fields being harvested by tractors, the Jimadores hauling agaves for Blue Iguana Tequila used mules with manual release baskets.  As I jumped down from the truck, I was greeted by the supervisor. Assuming that I was less bilingual than I am, he shouted to his men in fast slang, “Look good, assholes. You’re being filmed.”

They paused to look at me. One Jimador yelled back, “But, I’m ugly. What do I do?” I laughed, and after that, they were careful what they said when I was in earshot.

The town of Tequila was hopping, which was the exact opposite of what I had heard about the “Pueblo Magico.” I sat at a bar drinking Coronas and writing. Not my favorite beer, but tolerable. The enormous church emptied, filling the zocalo with people eating roasted corn with mayonnaise. Tequila tour buses shaped like giant liquor bottles or barrels whizzed around the same four main corners like a merry-go-round. Once they made me dizzy, I dipped into one of the Tequila museums which showed a grizzlier side of the fermentation process than I had been aware of. Rather than use a cultivated (and we would like to imagine clean) yeast, they stuffed a dirty guy in the tequila “beer.” By bathing in it, he added the needed bacteria to make booze.

All I can say is thank the Tequila gods for modern technology.

 

 

Nights at La Cucaracha, Episode One: The Dave Chappell of Sinaloa

Tequila Stories: A Unique Tequila Tale to Be Read in One-Sitting with a Sip!

We met The Dave Chappell of Sinaloa at La Cucaracha in San Miguel deep into the late night, several weeks back.  He had volunteered his birthplace.  We came up with the nickname, in appreciation of his highly-entertaining rap and general way of moving.  Plus, he kind of looks like Dave Chappell.   After telling us where he was from that first night, he was quick to add “but I’m not that kind of Sinaloan…..I’m a lover, not a fighter.”  He then initiated some tequila shot rounds, and a fine time was had by all (until the piper was paid next day, anyway).  

When we walked in the door on this night, there he was again, down at the far end of the bar by the jukebox, where Jonathan, my Aussie friend, and I like to hang out.  With him were four large, stern-looking dudes who looked enough alike to be brothers.  Turns out they were.

“Hey, man, I want you to meet my cousins!  They’re visiting from Sinaloa.”  Firm, solemn handshakes were exchanged.

“They don’t speak any English, but there’s great guys.”

Now, Jonathan speaks Spanish fluently, albeit with the same thick Antipodean accent that makes his English hard for me to understand in loud barroom situations (which is where we tend to congregate).  My brain, however, has demonstrated a lifelong resistance to representational systems like other languages.  I berate it for this, but so far it remains resistant and unrepentant.  And so I struggle.

Cucaracha was hopping on this night as the clocked danced heedlessly past midnight, and things were loud enough where even Jonathan was having a hard time trying to communicate with the taciturn (and still large) cousins.  

And then Dave Chappell started The Shot Buying.  

I had an immediate flash of how this was going to go:  seven guys taking turns buying rounds of shots for each other.  Rinse and repeat.  I felt my skull get an anticipatory jump on things by starting to throb, pulsing in and out and putting a rhythmic pressure on my brainpan.

Disclaimer: This is not Walter! It's another tequila lover, Kevin Holloran, hanging out in La Cucaracha taking cheap tequila shots.

Disclaimer: This is not Walter! It's another tequila lover, Kevin Holloran, hanging out in La Cucaracha taking cheap tequila shots.

And so it went.  I’ve always been deeply impressed by the Mexican ability to consume tequila throughout a night without making faces, hopping about, cursing or otherwise showing any effects from the ingestion.  Whereas growing up in Texas in my day, we were the subject of a ruthless, comprehensive and effective advertising campaign that created the pervasive false impression not only that gold tequila was GOOD, but that Jose Cuervo Gold was the only tequila anyone should buy.  And so, as you might imagine, much sputtering and hopping about was always involved, accompanied by some truly creative expletives.  And this in turn produced “tequila stories” (eg. waking up in the back of a pickup truck as it sped down the road, driven by people you didn’t know) as well as a Pavlovian response to further tequila drinking (which of course was not a deterrent).      

So after a round or so on this night at Cucaracha, I realized that my only hope was to introduce a different kind of shot into the rotation.  I needed some relief from the not-Cuervo-Gold-But-Still-Not-That-Great-Quality blanco tequila shots.  So when my turn to buy came around again, I asked our friend Herman, the bartender, for “siete kamikazes, por favor.”  Herman was not familiar with this one, and so Jonathan helpfully pulled out his phone and the recipe was quickly pulled up and passed behind the bar.  Herman read it, nodded once, and soon we had a long line of cloudy little shot glasses lined up for us.  The four cousins looked a little dubious at this break from tradition, but without objection they each grabbed a shot glass and we all tossed ‘em back.  I waited with some trepidation for their reaction. 

They loved it!  Turns out none of our group but myself had ever had a kamikaze before.  One of the cousins even ordered more as the shot buying rotation came his way.  I started to feel better about maintaining a bit of dignity and poise for the rest of the night.  But then more low-grade tequila shots were ordered, and I began to feel a certain uncertainty in the rigidity of my legs.  Nothing too serious yet, but let’s just call it an increased potentiality of toppling.  

So as my round-buying turn approached, I began to consider something truly desperate……something I had not done in a very long time……something that might not even be possible (or legal) in a Central Mexican cantina.   I scrolled through my besieged and sputtering mental Roladex, trying to remember how one might make the damn thing.

And then it was my turn.  “Herman,” I asked with some hesitation, “can you make a Flaming Dr. Pepper?”  One furrowed brow and recipe look-up on the phone later, Herman got down to some serious alchemy.  He seemed deep in thought……a true craftsman, enjoying a new challenge.  It took several trips for him to ferry all the parts of these shots over to us, and when lined up it covered the entire length of the bar.

As you may know, a Flaming Dr. Pepper is a combination shot whereby a large shot glass is filled with Amaretto and topped off with Bacardi 151, which is then lit on fire and dropped in a full mug of beer, which is itself then immediately chugged in its entirety.  Against all odds and reason, it tastes exactly like a Dr. Pepper.  No one knows why.

To say that the Sinaloans appeared dubious of my new order would be a bit of an understatement, but they did enjoy the fire display (Herman had been so enthusiastic with the lighter, and the bar so saturated by booze from its venerable 69-year history, that our entire end of the bar caught on fire for a bit).  And so all seven of us stepped up in a complicated ballet, since the timing of the lighting of the shots, the deposits in the mugs of beer, and the beer chugging itself, was crucial for the Right Effect to be delivered.  

It was brutal, as I knew it would be, but it did provide that diversity so craved by my palate and soggy brain stem.  But how would the Sinaloans react?

They loved it!  They all slapped me on the back, smiles and handshakes all around, and two of the cousins ordered the same thing when their turn next came around.  Everyone in the bar seemed to enjoy the fire spectacle, and Herman seemed well-pleased with this new mixology arrow added to his quiver.  It was Good.

Sure, it took 2-3 days to feel human again (with my skull on Day One feeling as if it were cracking open a’la Zeus birthing Athena), but in the end it was a small price to pay for the whole hands-across-the-sea brotherhood and libationary solidarity that our diverse little group shared that night in the same little Mexican cantina where Kerouac and Ginsberg where drinking when Cassady got hit by the train on the outskirts of town.


Rather than drinking ANY of what we drank that night, try this much more sensible and tasty alternative:
Prickly Pear Margarita
--4 oz. Blue Iguana Silver Tequila
--2 oz. prickly pear cactus syrup
--2 oz. Cointreau, Mathilde Orange XO Liqueur, or Triple Sec
--1 oz. orange juice
--4 oz. lime juice
On the rocks:  Mix ingredients, pour over ice.
Frozen:  Put 4 cups of ice in the blender with ingredients.
(serves four, or two with large tiki mugs) 

Jalisco: the Home of Tequila

Jalisco is one of the most famous states in Mexico (if not THE most famous …) Bull fighting (called jaripeo), charreadas (rodeos), mariachis, ranchero music and last, but never least, tequila, all hail from Jalisco. In fact, tequila is only named as such if it comes from Jalisco, just like Champagne and Bourbon. Its capital, Guadalajara, is also the second largest city in Mexico. If Mexico City is the New York City of Mexico, Guadalajara is Los Angeles - with beautiful people in stilettos nipped and tucked to perfection on every corner.

Geographically, however, Jalisco is home to so much more. It heralds a variety of terrain including: forests, mountains, plains, beaches and lakes, such as one of the main tourist attractions Lake Chapala. It has amazing biodiversity due to the volcano chain nourishing and supplementing the soil. What does that mean to us, or more importantly to you? Delicious tequila.

Tequila was originally a ceremonial drink used in pre-Hispanic times to exposed and heighten elements of the soul. With the limited consumption of what we would now term “tequila beer,” fermented agave heart or piña (translation: pineapple, for the agave’s appearance), the person abandoned inhibitions and communed with the divine. Sound familiar? Right. You don’t have to admit it.

The first person legally allowed to sell Tequila was José Antonio Cuervo in 1758. Two hundred and fifty years later, people are still complaining. Then, in 1888, the first license to export was given to the Sauza family. How did it come into the popularity it has today? The introduction of the railroad. With improvements in transportation, Tequila spread out beyond Mexico, and now, here I am, writing this informative blog for you to read and *hiccup* drinking a little myself.