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I am a big fan of Mexican culture. It's brought us Taco Bell (a legal form of crack), sombreros for any occasion, MTV Spring Break in Cancún and uncounted Girls Gone Wild videos, as well as the Latin Representative to the Institute of Drinking Studies. But some imports from south of the border don't sit well with gringos who have no self-control.
I'm talking about tequila, which has been responsible for an untold number of hangovers. So it was with trepidation that I recently joined the Jewish Representative and others at Mezcal (3230 East Colfax Avenue). My last experience with mezcal involved several accomplished guys in their mid-twenties, guys qualified to fly multimillion-dollar aircraft, who polished off a bottle of mezcal right down through the worm, and then, since it was the Fourth of July, decided the best thing to mix with powerful booze would be gunpowder -- and subsequently engaged in a bottle-rocket battle that didn't end until one of us had the stem of a bottle rocket lodged in the skin over his right eyebrow. It almost ended our careers, but it was fun while it lasted.
Tequila and mezcal are evil.
Not that they are the same thing. As I found out on www.tastings.com, Mexico demonstrated its typical diligence regarding drug and alcohol laws by requiring that tequila be made only from the blue agave available in certain parts of the country. Mezcal, on the other hand, can be made from other agave species and oil-refinery by-products found throughout the country. This is why mezcal, rather than tequila, often includes local fauna at the bottom of the bottle.
At Mezcal, several of the bottles contain worms, and one even features a scorpion, just in case you want to kill yourself after being overserved. Apparently, these additions are not pranks, but a sign of how high-octane the mezcal is: Since the worm/scorpion/locust/rattlesnake doesn't decompose in the bottle, the mezcal must be good stuff -- not factoring in the waves of oatmeal that crash through your brain after a couple of shots, or the extensive liver damage that subsequently appears.
We steered clear of the mezcal because it was a school night, indulging instead in Mezcal's margaritas. While the place was crowded, it was relatively quiet -- allowing conversations in our group that I wish I had never heard. Prompted by my asking the name of the first album we'd each owned (Led Zeppelin IV, in my case, and vinyl, for those of you who remember what that is), his tongue loosened by tequila, the Jewish Representative started a discourse on his younger years. The mere mention of Led Zeppelin got him talking about his junior-high book report on Hammer of the Gods, the unauthorized biography of the band that made everyone in our generation want to be sexually prolific metalheads. We assured him that his report must have been one of the greatest treatises ever on the book, but then our admiration was shattered when he revealed that his first album was Boyz II Men's Motown Philly. He tried to justify this major character flaw by pointing out that since he's from Philly, it was only natural -- but I think it's about as natural as eating a strange scorpion out of the bottom of a bottle.
And he wasn't the only disappointment: JP had promised to grace us with his presence, and throughout the night assured us of his imminent arrival with a stream of text messages. It seems that he and other members of the human race are determined to avoid voice contact, using their phones for typing rather than actually talking. In just a few short years, cell phones have so improved simple communication that it now takes upwards of five minutes to leave a five-second message, because you must first deal with all of the options for how to leave your message, or if you want to page this person, or if you want to edit your message or maybe even compose it in a foreign language like Sanskrit.
But the margaritas helped keep our bitterness over the downfall of society to a minimum. For a good time after a bad day, we highly recommend heading to Mezcal. As a last recourse, you can put away a few scorpions. I'm told it doesn't hurt a bit.