Even the mezcaleria in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico, doesn’t serve this rare mezcal, which is not exported. I found a bottle at the Pan Optica bar at the end of flagstone-tiled Guadalupe Real and dove right in.
400 Conjejos is a joven mezcal made with 100% espadín, a type of agave whose name means small sword and which is among the main types of agave used for mezcal. Joven means young, therefore unaged and clear. Unlike unaged tequila, called silver, joven mezcal has a distinct flavor and is far superior to its tequila counterpart. It’s an artisanal mezcal, produced in small batches with traditional methods.
The name, Centzon totochtin (400 or inumerable rabbits in Nahuatl) refers to the spirits of alcohol in Mesoamerica associated with sleep and awakening. Its effect varies according to which of these rabbits influences the drinker, say mezcaleros Don Tacho and Joel Santiago in Santiago Matatlán, Oaxaca. Mesoamerican priests drank it during ceremonies in order to better communicate with their gods.
A Dangerous Man’s Mezcal
With the raw taste of a mezcal that is far from “fruity,” 400 Conejos is the kind of mezcal that would be served in a bar scene from a Tarantino flick. No worm, but it’s an ominous mezcal that Wes from the film Urban Cowboy would have surely drank straight from the bottle.
The smoke is thicker than the smog over Beijing. Don’t even think about a “lingering aftertaste,” just buckle up and get ready for a kick like one of the mules that powers the trapiche used to crush the agave hearts after fermenting in wooden tubs. Though 400 Conejos is 38 proof, the influence of the rabbit who rules the day you drink it delivers potent side effects.
Sipped and served with slices of orange and sal de gusano, or agave worm salt, 400 Conejos provides a solid base for comparing the wide range of mezcals. For a cocktail, the producers recommend spearmint and orange or lemon juice.
The catch is that you will have to travel to Mexico for 400 Conejos, which is not exported. But that’s one of the little things that make a Mexican vacation so worthwhile.