Mescal (or mezcal) is the Oaxaqueño drink of choice, sold everywhere in bottles that usually have a dead gusano worm (actually a type of caterpillar) in the bottom. Tradition has it that the creature lives on the cactus-like maguey plant and is there to prove that the ingredients are genuine, although these days most of the worms are farm raised. You don’t have to eat the worm, though few people are in any state to notice what they’re ingesting by the time they reach the bottom of the bottle. Like tequila (which is technically a type of mescal), mescal is made from the sugary heart of the agave plant, which is baked, pulverized and then distilled. Many of the best mescal stores can be found around the Mercado 20 de Noviembre where you can taste before you commit to buying; good brands include Los Amantes (also has a great shop), Los Danzantes (also a restaurant), Mezcal Amores and Alipús.

Several towns produce mescal, but the original is Santiago Matatlán, 45km from Oaxaca City near Mitla . Mescal tours are advertised everywhere.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Mexico features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

The most beautiful country in the world – as voted by you

The most beautiful country in the world – as voted by you

There's nothing like an amazing view to inspire you to book your next trip, whether you're drawn by rolling countryside, isolated islands or soaring mountain …

30 Aug 2017 • Rough Guides Editors camera_alt Gallery
26 awe-inspiring architectural wonders

26 awe-inspiring architectural wonders

From ancient temples to hyper-modern skyscrapers, these are just a few of the world's most incredible architectural wonders. Whether you're looking to wander l…

01 Feb 2017 • Rough Guides Editors camera_alt Gallery
12 cool places to visit in Mexico

12 cool places to visit in Mexico

Times remain tough for Mexico, but the truth is that there’s never been a better period to visit Latin America’s most diverse nation – most of the country…

16 Jan 2017 • Stephen Keeling insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month