This New Oaxaca Hotel Is a Mezcal Lover’s Dream

There are elements of Oaxacan life that are intrinsically great: tlayudas (large green corn flatbread); calendas (funny, impromptu street parade); and black pottery typical of the region. And then there’s mezcal. The pungent, mildly sweet spirit is a mainstay of Oaxacan culture. Walk into any family home, and you’ll find a bottle (or three) lying on the dining table. It is even served at religious events, like funerals and baptisms. In Oaxaca, drink mezcal not just drunk. It is a holistic mindset.

“You’ll have a great plate of groundhogs with shredded chicken and rice; maybe some quesillos, tortillas, tlayudas. And you sip on some mezcal,” said Fausto Zapata, co-owner of Casa Silencio, a new boutique, six-room hotel on the outskirts of Oaxaca City. “It’s just heaven.” Zapata and I are sitting on the picnic table at his hotel, nestled in a lush valley where frequent rainstorms occur. Right now, however, the sun was rising above the valley floor, and I could see the dark shadows of the distant mountains illuminated under the smooth, bright clouds. We just finished lunch: a simple amarillo de tlacolula sandwich, greens salad and toast with guacamole cream. On the table were several bottles of his own “rare agave” brandy, surprising me with aromas of chocolate, spices and fresh papaya. I’m usually a whiskey drinker, if I drink at all, but this one is more delicate, and more floral, than its corn-based cousin. It also helped that I was sitting a few feet from the room where they made the stuff.

Zapata is a fan of the Mexican concept of sobremesa. There is no direct English translation, but it does refer to the act of lingering at the table long after a meal, talking, sharing stories, laughing, and (yes) sipping mezcal. It’s the perfect rite of passage for a hotel that serves as the production site for Zapata’s international mezcal line, El Silencio. Just get out of the dining room palenque (distillery), which uses solar energy tahona, or stone wheel weighing half a ton, grinding avilla hearts into pulp; The fibers are then placed in giant wooden barrels to allow the sugar to turn into alcohol. This process, like anything worthwhile, requires patience. And dining beside these slow-fermenting plants, I remember how wonderful it felt to linger in one place. After all, I’m in Mexico. What’s urgent? | This New Oaxaca Hotel Is a Mezcal Lover’s Dream


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