Today marks the start of Dia de Los Muertos, the two-day Mexican celebration that combines the conquering European traditions of All Saints' Day (Nov. 1) and All Souls' Day (Nov. 2) with the Aztec festival for Mictecacihuatl, represented today as La Calavera Catrina, queen of the underworld and ruler of the afterlife. Far from being a somber or morbid celebration, Day of the Dead is a fiesta more akin to Thanksgiving than Halloween, with plenty of friends and family, chocolate, food, and drink to satisfy both the corporeal and the ethereal.
You don't have to go to Mexico or the Mission to celebrate Dia de Los Muertos. Building an altar requires few items: flowers (marigolds are traditional), candles, skeleton and skull art, and some offerings like chocolates, fruit, or bread. Spirits are frequently added to the spread. But which spirits please the dead?
When building our altar we decided to go with both tequila and mezcal for different reasons. We love the Del Maguey Chichicapa mezcal, a completely handmade spirit made in clay and bamboo stills with wild agave cooked in stone pits heated with mesquite fires. Slightly smoky, fruity, and sweet, it feels like the rural Mexico it comes from, a place about a two-hour drive outside Oaxaca City. At $70 a bottle, though, it's a bit of a splurge.
For the tequila we picked the newly released Espolón reposado, partly because of its easygoing price ($23) and cool Dia de Los Muertos art on the label, but also because of the drinkability of the tequila inside. The taste is light on the oak, with a tiny bit of sweetness and vanilla and nice vegetal/menthol notes that are typical for the category. This is a great value.
If you don't have to worry about keeping your booze away from curious pets or sneaky housemates, make sure you pour a "copita," or little cup, for yourself and your ghostly visitors. Cheers to all our friends present and past!