Drinking in Mexico: It’s not all margaritas…

Before our vacation, every time I told anyone I was going to Mexico, it was immediately assumed that we would be kicking back enjoying a few cocktails at some resort or other.  Well, apart from our close friends who know that that is Neil’s idea of hell!  Not the cocktail part, the sitting around doing nothing part. I know, I know, but different strokes for different folks, right?

Fortunately for me, that’s not my ideal vacation either – after a couple of days of that I would go stir crazy.  So our vacation involved planes, trains, buses and ferries and destinations only as far south as Morelia (winter home to the Monarch butterflies) yet as far north as Chihuahua (don’t believe all the “danger” hype – I have never felt safer than in the north, and sadder that it was absolutely devoid of tourists, scared away by the bad press).  So our trip was more like The Amazing Race, as opposed to Fantasy Island. And we’re both good with that. And whilst we weren’t drinking cocktails every night, we did try a few different beverages…

Any trip to Mexico cannot go by without at least one margarita and when they are 2-for-1 and enjoyed in the birth town of Zorro, El Fuerte, how can you resist? In fact, entering the rather posh Posada del Hidalgo in search of an apéritif, we were greeted by Zorro himself. (Looking on the website now, I see it is in fact, called the “Zorro Happy Hour” – how serendipitous that we stumbled upon it!).  I am sad now that I was enjoying my 2-for-1 drinks too much to remember to have my photo taken with him before he slipped off into the night…

(a note about my photos – many of the pictures from my trip, especially of food/ drinks, were taken on my iPhone for reasons of discretion or simply ease. So don’t be judging!)

The theme for this trip’s drinks was mostly about beer. And trying to find something other than Corona…

Absolutely love Modelo Especial. Wish it was more easily available here…

This was our first beer,  literally a couple of hours off the plane, at Salon La Mascota in Mexico City, where food is free as long as you keep drinking. Well then…  More on that in a future post!  We continued to seek out Victoria through the trip. More substantial than Corona.

When the only beer on tap is Tecate, and it’s free, who are we to turn it down?  Aeromexico serves drinks even on the shortest flight. Some passengers around us even got in two during a 30 minute flight! Of course when the only beer available is Corona and you are on a train for 5 hours, one might be forgiven for caving…   More on the Chihuahua Pacifico Railway (from Los Mochis through the Copper Canyon to Chihuahua) soon…

Ah, Indio – discovered (well only available) later on in the trip. Great labels and tasty tasty beer. Even when it’s hailing out. Yup, I told you this was no resort vacation. Hail. And sub-zero temperatures…

Once we figured out that Mexicans eat late and large lunches and pretty much no dinner, we got into the swing of things and made sure we had snacks in our room and often a bottle of wine.  Some tasty Mexican reds were consumed…  Because really, no matter how much I like churros and coffee, I don’t want that for dinner…

Before our Spanish kicked in (I took it for years at University and had a passable level but since I don’t use it anymore, it takes a while for me to be able to form my sentences. I can understand a lot, but the response time is slow in the first few days), we had some issues ordering the right amount of coffee to milk ratio. The café con leche seemed to me more leche con café and we were trying to get an extra shot of espresso. Though the extra cup worked well too, LOL!

In some places, like the delightful Hotel Mediterrane in La Paz (Baja California Sur), we didn’t need to worry about ordering a decent coffee. It was a given.  By the way, am I the only person who can’t say “Baja California” without thinking of the Beverley Hills 90210 episode where Dylan took Brenda to Tijuana because the drinking age was lower than in the States. And the dad had to come down and bring her home? No? Ok, then, as you were…

Now neither Neil or I are lovers of the tequila neat but if you are going to try it, Mexico’s the place to do so… It can be an intimidating experience though, like when this drinks cart with endless tequila options appeared not 30 seconds after we had sat down in Mr Owen’s Bar and Grill in the Plaza Inn, Los Mochis.  Sounds cheesy, right? Well it was actually quite a posh meal. And also the only restaurant open in town on Christmas Eve.  We were too afraid to try the tequila.

Right now, take a look at this – what do you see?

A big fruity cocktail, right?

WRONG!  It’s a Michelada.  otherwise known as a cerveza preparada – made with beer, tomato juice, lime juice, and various sauces, spices, and peppers.  Generally served in a chilled, salt-rimmed glass, there are numerous variations of this beverage throughout Mexico.  They are considered to be good for hangovers. I say they might well be the cause of one. Neil tried this one on Christmas day (well it was pretty festive!) and that was the first and last.

One drink we regretted not trying was mexican eggnog – ronpope

Sigh. Such pretty bottles but by the time we realised we might want to try some or have some around over Christmas, we were not in an area where they sold anything other than giant bottles.  And we weren’t sure we would like it that much… Next time…

My absolute favourite discovery of this trip?

So delicious it deserves two photos in one post!

Mexican hot chocolate is nothing like its western cousins.With hints of cinnamon and spice infused in the rich chocolate, it’s the perfect start to a chilly morning.  Traditionally prepared by bringing milk to the boil, and add the chocolate tablets (Abuelita and Moctezuma are two popular brands) then whisking vigorously either with a metal whisk or a molinillo.  We brought back a ton of this and will be attempting to recreate this experience at home. Because it’s always good to extend the vacation a little, right?

95 thoughts on “Drinking in Mexico: It’s not all margaritas…”

  1. I’ve only been to Mexico once, during a cruise. We stopped at Cozumel and Cancun, and it was all about the beaches and margaritas. I’d love to go back and experience it as you did. You’ve made me thirsty!

  2. I agree with you 100%! The idea of sitting around on a beach or by a pool doing nothing for my vacation is NOT my idea of fun – just shoot me. If I want to relax, I’ll stay in bed late on Sunday – when I travel I run myself ragged trying to soak it all in just as you have done. Mmm, I quite like Modela as well, for some reason we can get it here … and I think I got a headache just reading your description of a Michelada!

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  4. What a great trip! I’m with you… beach vacations are nice for a day or two, but then we go nuts. Shawn and I much prefer exploring new cities and towns.

    Mexican hot chocolate is amazing… and its been too long since I’ve had one. I might need to mix some up this afternoon.

  5. What a fun trip! How could one not have a good time in Mexico? Well, there is that “don’t drink the water” bit, but with so many other wonderful choices, who needs the water, right? I think your photos came out great! Love hot chocolate (done the right way) and the spicy Mexican version done right is a real treat! Thanks for the reminder and for sharing your journey!

  6. We’ve traveled to Puerto Vallarta for years and I’ve never heard of Michelada. I do love a good tomato beer so will have to order one next time. Mostly I adore the beautiful pottery. Your hot chocolate mug is so colorful and perfect for starting the day.

  7. Very interesting way to do a highlights of the trip post. I buy Abuelita here in Canada at my local Latin American grocer no need to ration your new delight

  8. what a fun post! i’ve been looking forward to your mexico posts, so i was thrilled to see the hot chocolate on my feed reader this morning. 🙂 (i’ve been making abuelita cocoa here this winter too – love the slightly cinnamony flavor.) you got some great pictures with your iphone – well done!

  9. It’s amazing what you discover about a place when you go there to visit! Before I first went to Mexico I thought, great, all I can eat is guacamole…well, when I got there I saw that their food is nothing like Mexican food here in the States… I loved it!

  10. I’ve never been to Mexico but my mother went when I was a young girl with a neighbor who originally hailed from San Antonio and we discovered avocados at a time when most people thought them very scary!

    Additionally my uncle went to Mexico for a trip (he was a photographer..wish he were around to help me now!) and lo and behold, he returned to St. Louis with a wife and daughter. So my young life was filled with ‘real’ Mexican food as well as ‘real’ Spanish but the one thing I remember most? Mexican hot chocolate! I always keep some of those bars on hand; hot chocolate without a touch of cinnamon is just not the same for me.

    Fun to experience your trip with you in this very vicarious sort of way…thanks, I needed a vacation!

    • Oh. Dear. Me.

      I can remember – with fuzzy edges – the exact #1 night you’d be referring to. The porch, the Schweppes, and the horrible bottle of typical tequila. “shudder” 😉

      You’ll be pleased to know on the night in the most posh restaurant we visited, I ordered a glass of the most expensive tequila they had, neat. It was nice…but still, far down on my list of things to drink. Give me a whisky, fine rum, cognac…

  11. I love Modelo Dark, it was my favourite beer in Mexico.

    Don’t forget to try horchata, especially if you can get it with coconut milk, so rich you won’t need to eat dinner.

  12. How fun! I love exploring food in other countries and their packaging. My great drink experience in Mexico was was buying a bottle of locally made mescal. The ‘floaters’ in it should have been a clue (am sure it was made in a local still). Smokey and strong. Not something to mass consume but great memories of the rustic beach and locals where we got it….this is beginning to sound insane in hindsight.

  13. I’m glad you had such a great experience. I adore Victoria! Haven’t gotten into the Modelo Especial yet, but I have friends who are big fans.

    Ponche is also a wonderful Mexican drink sold around Christmas time, I’m not sure if you tried it. It’s basically spiced punch with cinnamon, guava, piloncillo (Mexican unrefined cane sugar), apples, prunes and more. It’s traditionally sipped with buñuelos.

  14. That sounds like my typical vacation too. Despite being tired before going on holiday, if I want to do nothing, I stay home. When I travel, I’m all over the places. Glad you have fun…and that you enjoyed some good drinks!

  15. We WERE both in the same country! My favorite Mexican beer is Negro Modelo, which I used to buy for a buck back in Brooklyn, although I do really like a good sipping tequila and a fresh juice margarita. (And mexican hot chocolate with churros.) Sadly, the friend I traveled with also got a lot of “aren’t you worried about getting kidnapped” and we were on Cozumel, which is an island only reached by plane or ferry!

  16. Mexico is one my destination in the next couple of years 🙂

    Ohh… and I LOVE LOVE LOVE Michelada!!! But the hot chocolate sounds superb as well.

  17. Great post, as usual! Sounds like you had a lovely trip. I love Michelada and Mexican hot chocolate and would love to try them in Mexico itself! The one day I spent on Cozumel during a cruise wasn’t quite the authentic experience that you had. I especially remember one too many made-for-tourist margaritas and the headache I had afterwards. Ouch!

  18. Mexican beers are terrific and you tried some good one. I live in LA and we have all those beers and more. But what I am most excited by is the fact you tried Mexican win. I see it on menus and in stores here but have never tried it. GREG

  19. What a lovely trip! The hot chocolate looks absolutely divine. I hope that you are able to recreate the experience!

  20. Now, Mardi, I have never been to Mexico. But I do like to think that is is mostly about the margaritas!

    The picture of the starfruit margarita is killing me, I just want to knock it back!

    Will you be lamingtoning this year? It’s the season, and we have a prize or two. Margarita lamingtons? 🙂

  21. The Mexican hot chocolate sounds delicious! Interesting to hear that the tourists are staying away. I hope the local economies aren’t suffering too much.

  22. It sounds like you guys had an amazing trip. I can’t wait to read about your experiences in the Pacific-Chihuahua train. I took it about 15 years ago and up until now it’s one of the best vacations I’ve remember.

    Great lists of drinks. I love rompope and if you weren’t sure you guys were going to like it that much. I recommend you try it in a cappuccino. Maybe next time. Mexico is an amazing place to visit, isn’t it?

  23. Great post. Thanks for the info!
    We were in central Mexico in October, and were impressed by some of the wines being produced in Baja California. They’re light, but good. We also encountered Ronpope in our cooking class as an excellent addition to custards. If you brought some home, do give it a try!

  24. I see that you were at Restaurante LU, at the Hotel Best Western Casino in Morelia. Next time you’re in town, let me know and we’ll get together–I live here!

    You might like to read this, more about Mexico’s drinks:

    and this, about Restaurante Lu:

    Glad you ate here, it’s the city’s best restaurant.

  25. I like trips where you sit on the beach and do nothing at all but I’ve also been on a few where we are in a town for a couple of days and then take off to explore another. Those are quite wonderful, too. This looked like such a fun trip. I’ve only been to Mexico once so I have so much more ground to cover. Thanks for the highlights. 🙂

  26. Mexico is known for their top notch quality chocolate so it’s no wonder you enjoyed their hot chocolate. I looove the mug and saucer they served it in. Major double score!

  27. What a trip, Mardi! iPhone or not, the photos look good, and YES. MEXICAN HOT CHOCOLATE! 😀 I’m loving that mug… the cocktail, on the other hand, looks terrifying. And huge.

    Jax x

  28. Wow! What a fantastic Mexican foodie post, love it. Mexico is high on my list of places I want to experience, thanks for whetting my appetite 🙂

  29. Wow, that hot chocolate looks amazing! I grew up near to a chocolate factory and when you went on school trips they would always give you samples of Aztec hot chocolate – cinnamon, chilli and dark bittersweet chocolate. Sooo good!

    Blue Skies,
    Charlotte xo

  30. It’s a shame that people are fearful of visiting Mexico. Like you mentioned, it’s a beautiful country and very safe in most places, even parts of the North. I’ve never tried the rompope either, but I’m going to have to look for that next Christmas. The next time you’re in Mexico City check out el Deposito for craft beers and try tepache (fermented pineapple juice) – you can usually find it in the markets and it’s surprisingly good. 😉

  31. Thanks for making me homesick Mardi! Having said that, I’m glad you had a wonderful time and discovered a new drink or two along the way!

  32. Forgive my ignorance but headed to cancun on Saturday and wondering how you ensured the ice used in the margaritas waa safe to drink?? Everyone keeps saying be careful of the ice but is it okay at our resort? Is it okay at well established restaurants? I love a good frozen bevvie but bummed that this may not be an option!

    • Thanks for stopping by! As you can see from the post, we drank many different types of beverages and none of them in resorts. I am no expert on that type of vacation but I imagine if it’s a reputable place you can trust the ice cubes. Of course, you can always ask for your drink without – that’s quite common I understand.

  33. I am originally from Mexico City and still have family there. I live in the USA now and came here a long time ago and yes I am legal and an American citizen. Wild horses could not drag me to go to Mexico City or anywhere else in Mexico for vacations, except Cancun. Like it or not Mexico is extremely dangerous, the risk reward is simply not there.


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