Thursday, June 11, 2015

3 Weird Shots to Drink in Tijuana

Tijuana is famous for watered-down cheap tequila being poured directly into the throats of partiers accompanied by the sound of blowing whistles and completed with a shaking of the head.  Other popular Tijuana drinks are margaritas and buckets of Corona garnished with lime wedges.  Of course there are also some very excellent craft beers, wines, and spirits for the more discerning drinker.  But as the saying goes, when in Rome, do as the Romans do.  So when in Tijuana, even if you aren’t much of shot person, sometimes shots are in order.  When that happens, here are some weird shots to drink in Tijuana.

Mezcal: The Worm at the Bottom of the Bottle

Gusano Rojo Mezcal 3 Weird Shots to Drink in Tijuana

We’ll start off easy with a bottle of alcohol with a worm swimming around at the bottom.  A common misnomer is the image of a worm in a shot of tequila.  If you’re looking for a bottle of alcohol with a worm in it, you’re actually looking for mezcal, tequila’s cousin.  Tequila must be produced from the blue agave, while mezcal can be made from any type of agave plant.

The worm in the bottle of mezcal is not an ancient Mexican tradition.  Jacobo Lozano Paez of Mexico City decided in 1950 to put a gusano into mezcal bottles as a marketing gimmick.  Gusano are moth larvae found in the hearts of agave plants.  His idea was clearly a success as it is still going 65 years later and people still seek out the worm at the bottom of the bottle.

If you’re looking for crazy shots to try in Tijuana, a shot of mezcal with the worm is a good starting point.

Dandy del Sur Tijuana 3 Weird Shots to Drink in Tijuana

A great place to sample mezcal in Tijuana is Dandy del Sur, a dive bar that’s been around since 1957 and the oldest remaining cantina of Tijuana.  Dandy del Sur used to be a seedy bar but now, with the popularization of dive bars, it is a hip place to go while still retaining its dive bar patina. 

Fandango Mezcal Reposado 3 Weird Shots to Drink in Tijuana

For mezcal with a worm, try Gusano Rojo Mezcal.  For a much higher quality mezcal, you’ll have to trade the worm for flavor with a shot of Fandango Mezcal Reposado.

Tequila Con Vibora: Tequila with a Bite

Rattlesnake Tequila El Museo Restaurante 3 Weird Shots to Drink in Tijuana

How about we make it a little more interesting?  What do you think of a jug-o-tequila with some dead rattlesnakes residing at the bottom?

El Museo Restaurante on Avenida Revolución is a restaurant, bar, and museum.  The space is filled with mementos from the Agua Caliente Casino, which opened in Tijuana in the 1920s, including the Art Deco chandelier that hangs overhead.  But what they also have is that jug of rattlesnake tequila.

Sadly rattlesnake tequila, or tequila con vibora, starts with a live rattlesnake.  The rattlesnake is put into a jar which is then filled with tequila.  The snake emits something into the tequila as it dies that is said to have medicinal properties.  The snake is removed, gutted, and then returned to the jar, where it sits for a few months before the tequila is served.  Supposedly this medicinal tequila is good for the kidneys, arthritis, and the nerves, and even cancer.  Mexico isn’t the only country that makes a spirit with snakes.  China, Vietnam, and Cambodia have snake wine.

As you can imagine, a shot of rattlesnake tequila is not the clearest shot you’ll drink.  It’s a bit cloudy and has small pieces and parts floating around.  At El Museo Restaurante it tastes surprisingly smooth and, well, it didn’t kill me.

Caliente Casino Tequila: The Manly Tequila

Caliente Casino Penis Tequila 3 Weird Shots to Drink in Tijuana

So this section of the article may be NSFW, but this tequila really does exist.  Based on my limited knowledge of Roman history, I’m pretty sure those Romans would have approved too.  This phallic red bottle can be found at the Mujeres Divinas Restaurant Bar of Caliente Casino.

I first learned about Caliente Casino’s tequila when my friend W. Scott Koenig of A Gringo in Mexico posted a picture of the bottle on Facebook.  He described an añejo tequila aged for five years with the male members of seven animals, including bull, bear, deer, rattlesnake, wild boar and others.  Scott knows tequila (here are his picks for 5 Tequilas Everyone Needs to Experience), so I figured if he drank it, I should too.

The owner of Caliente Casino, Jorge Hank Rhon, commissions the tequila, so it is only available in his casino.  Each bottle is marked with the edition number and one shot will set you back $35.  Rhon’s tequila is very smooth and actually almost tastes more like gin than tequila as the flavor hints at containing aromatics.

Again, Mexico is not the only place to find such a manly spirit.  In China, you can find similar spirits, like three-penis rice wine.

The next time you’re in Tijuana, spice it up a bit with one of these weird shots.  They're sure to put some hair on your chest and give you a story to tell.

Thank you to Descubre Tijuana for hosting our weekend getaway to Tijuana and making this post possible.  As always, all opinions are my own.

Katherine Belarmino has been traveling for over ten years on a quest to see as much of the world as possible, experience new cultures, and sample other cuisines and libations. She also writes the travel blog Travel the World, which journals her world travels with her husband Romeo and seeks to encourage others to take the time to travel.