When in Mexico, viva la Cazuela!

April L. Dowd photo
TLAQUEPAQUE, Mexico -- Straight tequilas, whether blanco, reposoda or añejo.

Margaritas, traditional or various fruit flavors.

Typical Mexican beverages, and wonderful drinks all. But what if you're looking for something very neighborhood specific?

I was, while in Mexico last week, and I found it at the El Patio restaurant in this artisan-dominated suburb of Guadalajara — the community’s own drink, called the Cazuela, that is a wonderfully refreshing potion, particularly for hot days like the 85-degree one I was experiencing.

The Cazuela gets its name from the earthenware bowl in which it is served.

It's made with ginger ale or Squirt -- the lowly soft drink so favored as a mixer in Mexico, blanco tequila and squeezes of wedges of orange, lime, lemon and mango, with pieces of the fruits competing with ice cubes for room in the bowl.

This punch-like mixture is, like so many other drinks, subject to the preferences of whoever is making them. Back in 1995, when Mexican food was just beginning its current U.S. uptick beyond some Southern border communities, the much-honored cookbook author Fonda San Miguel ("Tequila! Cooking with the Spirit of Mexico") was invited to serve a lush ethnic meal at the James Beard House in New York.

The Cazuela punch she served with it was a much more complex recipe that included watermelon, pineapple, oranges, grapefruit, carambola (star fruit), lemons, silver tequila, gold tequila and citrus-flavored soda.

Besides the Cazuela drink, the bowl -- which originated in Spain -- also is used to whip up a variety of one-dish meals.

Just two examples: A classic Cazuela in Puerto Rico includes sweet potatoes, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and star anise. In Chile, a common Cazuela involves chicken or beef with potatoes and vegetables in an herbed stock.

You can get the precise recipe for Fonda San Miguel's Cazuela punch here. And, Stephanie Stiavetti's "Kitchen Window" column on NPR.org offers an interesting take on how to use the earthenware vessel in a posting titled "Travels With My Cazuela."

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