Inauguration of the Palenque GRACIAS A DIOS in Oaxaca
Last Saturday, we, the Buenos Días Mexico team were invited to Oaxaca and the inauguration of the “Gracias a Dios” factory in Santiago de Matatlan.
What is Mezcal?
Oaxaca has long been known worldwide as a leading producer of authentic mezcal and for thousands of years agaves have been smoked, crushed with horse-powered millstones, fermented and distilled in this region.
This traditional and artesanal drink is still made by human hands and containing 100% agave plant in a lengthy production process. The difference to tequila is that tequila only has to contain 51% agave and the rest is balanced by additives.
In addition to its taste which often takes some getting used to, the surrounding aura of tradition has made it a drink with a cult like following. In bars from Berlin to Paris and New York, it is being used straight or in unique cocktails and is known as tequila´s rebellious brother.
Why Gracias a Dios?
The idea for the brand “Gracias a Dios” (thank God) came from 5 good friends from Querétaro and in 2011 the “Mezcalería” was opened in the historic center of the city with the same name. Here you can find a rustic Mexican ambience and of course, many kinds of mezcal and traditional food. This concept was a complete success, so they decided to produce their own mezcal.
Since the middle of this year, it has been available in many Mexican cities such as Querétaro, San Miguel de Allende and Mexico City, as well as in numerous restaurants, bars and nightclubs in central Mexico. The export to the USA has begin and the GAD mezcal can be found in Texas you in all Specs Stores. The 3 types of Mezcal sold are:
- Espadín – is made from organic agave plants that are at least 8 years old
- Espadín Reposado – is made from at least 8 year old organic agave plants and stored for 3 months in oak barrels
- Tobalá – is made from wild agave plants at least 10 years old
This is of course a reason to celebrate and over 180 invited guests went to Oaxaca for the weekend to take part in a unique itinerary surrounding the opening of the small factory. The majority of people arrived on Friday to take part in a welcome dinner at the restaurant “La Teca”. Here the entire restaurant was just for us,. It is a hidden gem and known for its excellent Oaxaquan cuisine in a family atmosphere. In addition to Mezcal, we were served an exquisite menu which provided a perfect atmosphere for the following day.
On Saturday morning, the guests were gathered at the Hotel Quinta Real and brought together in vans and a coach to Matatlan, also known as the “World Capital of Mezcal”. There was a fun, enthusiastic atmoshpere on the way with typical Mexican music and refreshments and everyone was excited about what to expect during the day.
When we arrived in Matatlan, we were greeted by a “calenda”. These are giant paper mache puppets that dance in a manner similar to a carnival dance. They usually roam the streets of the capital with traditional musicians and women in traditional clothing and invite everyone to participate. The processions belong to Christian rites are now a popular tradition with festive and pagan influences.
Then we were allowed to try the first mezcal and we began a tour of the grounds and through the small factory, where the mezcal master (maestro mezcalero) Oscar Hernandez explained the manufacturing process and the differences between the different types of mezcal. This was very interesting because the mezcal is still completely made by hand and is therefore a little more expensive than the world-famous tequila. After our questions were answered and a few mezcal and beers had already been drunk, lunch continued.
Here Oscar’s mother, Doña Maria, prepared an incredibly delicious meal with her daughters, sisters-in-law and granddaughters. There were homemade moles, chicken, rice and numerous sappetizers which you won’t find in any restaurant. Preparations had started 2 weeks beforehand and it was a great pleasure and honour for the señoras to be able to cook for so many guests, especially since it was the first time for many to get a meal prepared in this way.
After that there was a big surprise! Since 3 of the invited couples will get married this year, they were invited to participate in typical Zapotec wedding traditions. All guests of the gusests were invited to dance with the bridal couple and were cleansed by waving bushes through the air to drive away the evil spirits. A tradition that took some getting used to was also practiced: the “Baile del Guajalote” – turkey dance, in which the groom grabs the turkey by the legs, throws it over his shoulders and dances with the bride in the middle of a bar. We could not find out what the exact meaning of this tradition is, at least the poor animal is sacrificed the next day and prepared for a meal.
Afterwards we continued to party, drink and dance until the buses picked us up and brought us back to Oaxaca. Here the celebration continued in the bar “La Central”, where a DJ from Mexico City was hired and who played until the wee hours of the morning.
In conclusion, it can be said that this weekend was a really unique experience with many traditions, folklore, warmth & attention to detail which will remain unforgettable for many. We would like to thank both “Gracias a Dios” and the Hernandez family from Matatlan for their hospitality and for inviting us to this special event.
We wish you much success and luck in the future!
If you are interested in visiting Oscar and his family and getting to know the production of mezcal, we would be happy to organize a day trip from Oaxaca for you!
Visit the Gracias a Dios Facebook site, where you can find more information on news and upcoming events.