How to Drink Mezcal with Traditional Drinking Vessels: Jicaras and Veladoras

Mezcal Drinking Vessels

Photo by PEDRO PARDO/AFP via Getty Images

Once you understand the differences between tequila and mezcal, your next challenge is how to drink mezcal. The drinking vessel from which you drink tequila or mezcal can be just as important as the juice itself. It may sound like a stretch, but the container your mezcal sits in can enhance the aromas, complement the flavors, and boost your entire experience. Let’s talk about my two favorite traditional mezcal vessels: Jicaras and Veladoras!

@la.tequilana #mezcal lovers! Always neat and maybe a side of sal de gusano 🤌🏼 #oaxaca #funfacts ♬ Just a Cloud Away – Pharrell Williams

The Jicara is one of my favorite drinking vessels for Mezcal.  It’s also one of the most traditional ones still used in Oaxaca (the home and epicenter of mezcal production, of course). While it looks like a wood-carved cup, this is actually the fruit of a calabash tree.

I personally love the wide opening because it gives you an opportunity to see all of the little bubbles that come out of Mezcal (don’t forget to drink it neat!). The bubbles or often referred to as pearls in mezcal when a bottle is agitated or poured into a jicara are often used as an indicator of the alcohol level (ABV) in the mezcal. The Marangoni effect is the science behind the phenomenon. Essentially, the larger and slow to burst pearls are a higher ABV and smaller, quick to burst pearls are at a lower ABV. Artisanal Mezcaleros such Gonzalo Martines from Macurichos mezcal often say that mezcal is meant to be higher proof at 46% ABV and higher. As a taster, I also love Jicara itself because I feel as though it imparts a little bit of earthiness into the mezcal.

Next up is Veladora — check out a close-up video here. People legitimately steal (or borrow…) out of Catholic churches to drink mezcal out of them. That’s actually why they’re called Veladora meaning candle or candlelight in Spanish. The ‘vela’ is another way of saying the candle. Basically, the Catholic church places a candle in these cups in different areas of the Church and lights them as a symbol for prayer (yeah, you probably feel bad about the stealing now…). After funerals or feast celebrations, people would then take them to the bars or wherever they wanted to be when they sipped mezcal out of the container. Given that these veladoras were intended to be used for prayer, there is a Christian cross at the bottom of the glass. You can buy some on Amazon here and avoid the whole stealing-from-a-church thing.

There’s also this fun saying, “Hasta ver la cruz,” which roughly translates to “until you see the cross at the bottom,” referencing its Catholic church origins and the cross at the bottom of the veladora. So next time you’re at a party and someone says “Hasta ver la cruz,” you absolutely have to empty your cup and down all of the mezcal. You’ll thank me later (unless you do it a few too many times in one setting).

And if you need help selecting a mezcal to pour into the jicara or veladora… I’ve got you. You can go off of my Favorite Types of Mezcal list or let the stars decide and see what your ~ mezcal horoscope ~ suggests you should sip:
Mezcal for Aquarius, Pisces, Aries, and Taurus
Mezcal for Gemini, Leo, Cancer and Virgo
Mezcal for Scorpio, Sagittarius, Libra and Capricorn


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