In addition to quality bottles of tequila and mezcal, there’s another Mexican spirit bidding for a spot in your liquor cabinet: pox (pronounced posh). The corn-based spirit is an ancient ceremonial drink tied to Mayan rituals. To this day, it bears important cultural significance to many people in Mexico, says Eric “Don Buccio” Buccio, CEO of Casa México Tequila.
Production can vary depending on the distillery, but pox is typically distilled from sugarcane, wheat bran, and corn. With the absence of agave, this means pox production is actually closer to that of a rum or whiskey. Still, because pox is made in Mexico, people often compare it to tequila and mezcal, but that’s where the similarities end.
“My father would always say pox smells like toasted corn tortillas,” says Buccio, who was born in Mexico. “For me, though, I get a light body, sweet finish, with a little bit of smoky flavor.”
Similar to mezcal bars that have recently become popular in the U.S., pox bars are popping up in Mexico. Buccio predicts the corn-based spirit will start taking off stateside soon. Get a head start with this guide to pox and learn how to drink this lesser-known (for now, at least) Mexican spirit:
How Pox Is Made and What It Tastes Like?
Pox is produced in the highlands of the southern Mexican state, Chiapas, by the native Mayans of the region, says Daniel Barragan, mixologist at Cantina Rooftop in New York City. Pox made only from corn will have a strong, smoky flavor, giving way to a slightly sweet aftertaste. Your tasting notes just might include “corn tortilla.”
“But if the pox is made from corn, wheat, and sugarcane, it’ll have a sweeter taste with herbal and fruity aromas,” he adds.
While there’s no one way to make pox, the grains are typically fermented for about 10 days before distillation, says Alfredo Sanchez, certified tequila master from Mexico City and manager at Terra Restaurant and Bar at Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado Santa Fe.
Sanchez likens it to a white dog, i.e. an unaged American whiskey. “But the sugarcane and wheat gives another layer of complexity.”
Pox can also be infused with herbs like rosemary, peppermint, lemongrass, or even local fruits such as mangos or tamarind, Sanchez says.
How to Drink Pox
In the southern region of Mexico, pox is a special spirit full of traditions. For Mayan cultures in the southern state of Chiapas, the spirit has been traditionally used for ceremonies and healing purposes, Sanchez explains. There’s a belief that pox reveals bonds between all individuals, and instead of saying Cheers, the traditional toast is In Lak’Ech’, which means “I’m another you,” to which the reply is Hala Ken, which means “You are another me,” Sanchez says.
Like whiskey or tequila, pox is a great spirit to sip straight, especially as you’re learning about its nuances and picking up on tasting notes. It can also be accompanied by orange slices or garnished with coffee beans to enhance its flavor, Barragan says.
In the U.S., your gateway to pox will most likely be through a bottle of Siglo Cero, which is the most widely available. Look for notes of coffee, chocolate, and a hint of sweet corn, says mixologist Timo Torner of Cocktail Society.
Pox is also a great replacement for rum to give tiki cocktails a twist, but if you want to whet your whistle with a pox cocktail, try this recipe courtesy of Torner.
- 1.5 oz Siglo Cero Pox
- 1 oz Campari
- 1 oz Carpano Antica Formula
- Add all ingredients into a mixing glass with plenty of ice.
- Stir well until the drink is chilled.
- Strain into a glass and garnish with an orange peel.
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