Discover mezcal and food tours in San Luis Potosi

One of the best-kept secrets in the country may be found on a cultural trip in San Luis Potosi: mezcal, a spirit drink that pairs nicely with the regional cuisine.

Discover mezcal and food tours in San Luis Potosi
San Luis Potosi is a great place to go on a gastronomy and mezcal tour. Photo by The Pop'd Shop / Unsplash

As part of the historic Royal Road of Tierra Adentro, the Potosi Altiplano has cultural tours that lead to the heart of Mexico, where you can find one of the country's best-kept secrets: mezcal, a spirit drink that goes well with the unique food of this area.

The Altiplano of the state of San Luis Potos, in central Mexico, is the gateway to the extensive semi-desert region of Chihuahua, located at an altitude of 2,000 meters, with a great variety of flora and fauna, including many cacti and small species of rodents and birds.

The mezcal factories of the Potosi highlands have a history of more than 200 years, and some have not stopped producing this distillate that has a reputation for being noble and austere. Visiting the factories and smelling the honey of freshly cooked maguey hearts will forever change the way you drink a small mezcal horn; two centuries of experiences contained in an elixir clearer than water but louder than thunder.

Tierra Adentro

The route that follows in the footsteps of early Spanish explorers into northern Mexico, known as the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, leads to a region of ancient mines and shrines erected to evangelize the local population. This is also the route that Miguel Hidalgo traveled with his army on his way to Saltillo, Coahuila.

One of the points to visit on this route is the "Roberto Donis" Cultural Center in Venado, located in a textile factory from the end of the 19th century that used hydraulic force to generate energy. This center has an important collection of Australian aboriginal pieces, popular art, and works by Donis himself.

The road passes through the mining site of Charcas, where you can taste the famous gorditas ferrocarrileras while you see the old haciendas of beneficiation. This is the gateway to the Magueyera region, in the foothills of the mountains, where the imposing mezcal factories of Laguna Seca and Santa Isabel are located.

The former dates from the 18th century and the latter from the 19th century. Both have masonry structures, half-point vaults, and large cooking ovens. You can also visit the Zaragoza de Solis mezcal factory, created in the early years of the 21st century by a rural cooperative. Here you can see how state-of-the-art technology is applied to produce mezcal and learn about new visions for this distillate.

The San Luis-Zacatecas Royal Road

This route leads to the west of the state to the municipality of Salinas, where one of the most unusual industrial facilities of the highlands is located: the salt production factories, scattered along a large salt lake of marine origin, which serves to supply salt to the silver and gold mills of Fresnillo.

On the way, it is possible to visit the mezcal factories of Santa Teresa and Ipiña, both in the municipality of Ahualulco, which belonged to the same hacienda but have different characteristics: while Santa Teresa prospered from agricultural activity, Ipiña did so because it benefited from the laying of railroad tracks and the construction of a station that served as a port of shipment for mezcal.

In addition to the mezcal factories of Saldaña and La Pendencia, in the municipality of Pinos, Zacatecas La Pendencia has worked uninterruptedly for almost 200 years, and its history is linked to the mining history of Pinos.

The Cuisine of San Luis Potosi

Apart from mineral resources, the highlands of Pinos also have a very varied desert flora, which changes with each season. In the spring, it sells typical Lenten foods like cabuches (biznaga flower buds) and chochas (izote or maguey flowers) cooked in stews, brine, or piloncillo honey, as well as dried pumpkin apricots.

August is prickly pear cactus season and many varieties are grown in the highlands. The most sought-after are the white, cardona, red, and small. The latter is used to make one of the typical beverages of the Altiplano: colonche. It is also the time to collect garambullos, the small red fruit of a cactus, similar to blackberries.

Throughout the year, apart from mezcal, the Altiplano offers nopales, jacubes, and palm hearts, which are prepared in various stews with pork, chicken, rabbit, or pasta, and cakes, or preserved or pickled, as well as exotic dishes such as garlic and field rat, either in broth, with dried chili sauces, or simply roasted. The exploitation of the red maguey worm for human consumption and of escamoles is recent, but they have had great acceptance.

The traditional cuisine of the altiplano, apart from using dessert products, makes use of a great variety of fruits, vegetables, and products from the orchards near the springs. Typical dishes are gorditas de horno (which in some communities are called condoches), gorditas de queso, cabrito in multiple presentations, and goat's and cow's milk cheeses. One of the most famous dishes is the asado de boda, a marinade based on dried chilies, herbs, and spices.

Finally, the typical sweets are based on milk and nuts, jams, jellies, and preserves made from the fruits of the orchards, such as figs, berries, and even hopa and prickly pear.