What You Need to Know About Mezcal Jicara Cups
by Greg Rutkowski
Mezcal isn’t just a drink. Like many fine alcoholic beverages, it’s an experience. That means, like many fine alcoholic beverages, it’s also much more enjoyable when you choose the right vessel to drink it from.
Sure, if you only have basic glassware available, you can still appreciate mezcal, but a true enthusiast wants to stock up on glasses and cups designed specifically to complement mezcal’s nuances.
The mezcal jicara cup is one vessel all mezcal lovers should add to their cabinets. This guide will explain what a jicara is, where (and when) it comes from, and why it’s ideal for mezcal.
What is a Mezcal Jicara Cup?
A jicara is a small mezcal cup with a wide mouth and a rounded bottom (although some modern jicaras now have flat bases). It can usually hold between ¾ oz. to 1 oz. of mezcal. Because it traditionally has a rounded bottom and only holds a small amount of mezcal, someone drinking from a jicara needs to hold it carefully to avoid spillage.
That’s key. Again, mezcal is a unique beverage. Those who genuinely appreciate it take the time to savor it. A jicara helps them do so. Because a person needs to be somewhat careful when drinking from one, they’re more likely to pay attention to the experience. They’re also more inclined to sip slowly, allowing them to savor the mezcal.
History of the Mezcal Jicara Cup
The jicara isn’t used exclusively for serving mezcal. In fact, for thousands of years it’s had many different uses in Oaxaca and the surrounding regions, from serving chocolate to displaying goods.
This is partially due to availability. While many of today’s jicaras are made from different materials, the bark of fruit with the same name provided the material for the original jicaras. Workers in various industries and trades would create these small cups to drink beverages, transport items, and much more. Their size made traveling with them very convenient.
It’s also worth noting that larger variations on the jicara have played an important role in the production of mezcal at times. Specifically, when testing the alcohol content of a new batch, some mescaleros will suck up a little of it through a bamboo straw, then release it into a large jicara-like bowl. This produces bubbles. Based on their size, a mezcalero can estimate how much alcohol is in a batch.
Other Interesting Mezcal Jicara Cup Info
The following are a few more jicara facts any mezcal enthusiast might want to know:
You can wear them (sometimes)
Some Jicaras come with small holes near the rim. This allows you to wear a jicara as a necklace, instead of holding it all the time during tastings.
A jicara tradition
Remember, if you’re drinking from a traditional small jicara with a rounded base, you need to be careful not to spill any mezcal. This may be why some mezcal fans claim it’s tradition not to move until you’ve consumed all the alcohol in a jicara.
It’s not uncommon for many mezcal jicara cups to feature painted patterns and designs. Thus, they can also serve as works of art.
They don’t last forever
A mezcal jicara cup that’s actually made from organic material will naturally break down over time, no matter how often or thoroughly you dry it. With that in mind, you may want to stock up on a few.
Just remember that the jicara is only one mezcal cup worth trying out. If you want to enjoy mezcal to the fullest, you should look into others (such as copitas) too. You want to find the vessel that’s perfect for your tastes.