Thursday, March 6, 2014


My plane flew circles around Phoenix for almost an hour. There was a thunderstorm during my layover and after the second aborted landing the crinkle of paper and scent of vomit became increasingly hard to ignore. I tried to disappear into my headphones to forget my own nausea.
The whole week prior was likely my most sleep deprived ever; that last night in New York I took three hours of sleep, maybe. My two flights and layover went by in an uncomfortable droopy eyed blur.
After a snappy cab ride from the Guadalajara airport I was greeted by Rosy in reception. She was one of the sweetest women I've ever met and she welcomed me warmly to Mexico. We talked of mariachis, mezcal, y mariposas. The rooms had names instead of numbers. Mine was paz for peace. The hotel was far nicer than I ever require, me being used to spending my nights on the road in dingy youth hostels and living room couches. From the rooftop balcony I felt the warm air and listened to the music of a mariachi band drift up from the main square of Tlaquepaque and I felt very sure that I was soon to be in love with this country.

In the late morning I carefully stretched out the whole length of my body, taut from deep and much needed sleep, and then followed a chorus of laughter to the rooftop dining area. There I met some of those who would become my companions bound in tequila for the next four days. The firmest handshake I received came from Guillermo Sauza: our host, the owner of Fortaleza Tequila, heir to the Sauza name, and perhaps a contender for the living embodiment of the most interesting man in the world. He wore a salt colored mustache, he had texture in his cheeks and even more in his voice, and he re-christened me as Matteo on the spot. There were several bottles of his tequila at hand and I, in company, had about half a bottle's worth. Most of anejo.

Fortaleza bottle stoppers
After our liquid breakfast, we headed over to his second favorite restaurant in Tlaquepaque with a few bartenders, some of his friends, and his beautiful Labrador Sandy. He had long since boycotted his favorite restaurant by their refusal to carry his tequila.

 Tlaquepaque is regarded as a suburb of Guadalajara and is celebrated for its well preserved old Mexico charm. Mariachi bands run amok, serenading locals and tourists alike. I followed a recommendation to a Pulqueria by the cheeky name of Tlaquepulque. Pulque, a beer of sorts fermented from agave, has been on my must-try list for some time. Traditionally, the fermentation process requires enzymes form the human mouth to kick start the process. You'd chew a bit and spit it back into the mash. Modern pulque skips that step, or at least I hope it does. It can be served in its natural form or dressed up with a couple dozen different flavor additives. I typically prefer things in their purest forms, but I really enjoyed trying different pulques cut with strawberries, tamarind, and coconut. The addition of sweetness, tartness, and/or fat to the mix help round out the flavor, as pulque on its own is quite pungent and sour. I was also pleased to see the place had a vegano section on its menu, which helped alleviate some of the dread I had about traversing Mexico as a vegetarian.

If tequila breakfast wasn't warning enough that the next four days were going to give my liver a run for its money, things were made very clear when I was later in a bus full of mostly bartenders, each with a cerveza in hand as bottles of tequila were being passed from front to back. Our destination was the town of Tequila, and a party was waiting for us in a museum built out of the old Casa de Sauza.

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