Wednesday, February 24, 2010

"He's bringing some hooch out of the back room!"

We went to la Estrella de Oro tonight, what we were told is the oldest cantina in Coatepec, about 120 years old. It was originally a train stop; the tracks ran right down the center of the street. was rustic, the people were rough-cut but friendly (especially when a bunch of gringos descended on their bar), and they had cold beer. They also had a folding table that had a top surface made of inch-thick stone, such a bizarre thing that I actually got out my notebook and wrote it down. I got an Indio, a FEMSA dark beer; it was fine, it was cold. I had some mezcal; I don't like tequila, but this I liked, smoky, not as vegetal.

And then I saw the bartender go into the backroom and come back with a big glass tumbler about 1/3 full of some not-quite-clear liquid, pour it in two guys' glasses, and top it with a bit of Fresca. What da hell? I leaned over to Sarah, one of the Pernod Ricard folks, and said, hey, the bartender's bringing some kind of hooch out of the backroom! Can we find out what that is? So she got our local guy, Pablo Zacarias (interesting dude who's planning on moving to Montreal and opening a Mexican/Veracruz coffee shop there; I need to get him in touch with the Mondial folks), to ask. Sure, he'll do that; do you want some? Well, hell yeah!

He's up there a long time, talking and grinning, and he finally comes back with about 1.5" of the stuff in a tall glass. What is it? "It's donkey herb," he says, with a big grin. "Yerba del burro. It's an infusion, in rum, sugar cane rum." Sarah asks him what it is, he says it's donkey herb -- good answer! -- and I'm thinking, I don't know what it is, but I'm sure as hell gonna Google it when I get back (and I did); meantime, let's get blind on this stuff! It had a kind of sweet tarragon aroma, and was quite sweet. Not surprising to find some kind of backroom rum thing in an area with all this sugar cane growing. It wasn't bad; we split on it, some liking it, a couple hating it as too sweet. I wonder what it was like with the Fresca.

Great little scruffy joint. I'd go back.


Alexander D. Mitchell IV said...

Lew, did you just happen to notice that the plant next to that listing for yerba de burro, the varnish-leaf, is a plant that has been used as a substitute for hops in beer?

And ironically (or not chance?), the captcha I'm being asked to type in a blog for you, Mr. Malt Advocate, is "peaters"......

Ron Pattinson said...

Lew, I want to get the next flight to Mexico and drink in that bar. If only I didn't have a job.

Really love your travel writing.

r said...

Great photo. Above the bar, three faces to the left of Jesus, is Lew with his camera! I guess it was a religious experience.