Pox - Gastro Obscura



This ceremonial Mayan brew has evolved into a sweet, smoky spirit in the Chiapas highlands.

In various forms, the ceremonial libation known as pox has accompanied rituals in the Tzotzil Maya community for hundreds of years. Originally, the elixir was made solely from fermented corn, the most valuable foodstuff in the culture’s home in the highlands of Chiapas, Mexico. Modern recipes, however, have evolved to include distillation and sugarcane, creating a unique liquor that has a slightly sweet, smoky, rum-like flavor. 

Until recently, pox was almost never found outside of the Chiapas highlands and, even then, it was typically used in ceremonial contexts. The spirituality practiced in towns such as San Juan Chamula and Zinacantán is a hybrid of indigenous traditions and Catholic rituals brought to the region by the Spanish in the 1520s. Ceremonies are frequently held in structures that, while they look like churches or cathedrals from the outside, are very different inside, with pine needles carpeting the floors. Pox, often transported in old plastic soda bottles, is an important part of the rituals in which curanderos (healers) and spiritual guides take sips of the liquor or spill drops on the ground while murmuring prayers over dozens of burning candles.

In the 2000s, pox began to enter the commercial market. The first pox tasting room, La Posheria, opened in 2010 in San Cristobal de las Casas, the cultural capital of the state of Chiapas. Similar to Oaxacan mezcal, pox is sold in single-distilled, double-distilled, and flavored versions (coffee, coconut, chocolate, and vanilla). In Chiapas, glasses of pox are served with orange slices dusted with coffee grounds and a few pieces of cacao.

After the Chiapas government certified that pox could be sold outside the state in 2012, it has started appearing in bars and restaurants in México City, Playa del Carmen, Mérida, and beyond. It is still, however, available only in Mexico.

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