Mescal (or mezcal) is the Oaxaqueño drink of choice, sold everywhere in bottles that usually have a dead gusano worm (actually a type of caterpillar) in the bottom. Tradition has it that the creature lives on the cactus-like maguey plant and is there to prove that the ingredients are genuine, although these days most of the worms are farm raised. You don’t have to eat the worm, though few people are in any state to notice what they’re ingesting by the time they reach the bottom of the bottle. Like tequila (which is technically a type of mescal), mescal is made from the sugary heart of the agave plant, which is baked, pulverized and then distilled. Many of the best mescal stores can be found around the Mercado 20 de Noviembre where you can taste before you commit to buying; good brands include Monte Albán, Rey Zapoteco, Benevá and Oro de Oaxaca.

Several towns produce mescal, but the original is Santiago Matatlán, 45km from Oaxaca City near Mitla . Mescal tours are advertised everywhere.

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