Remember the “el jaguar rojo” sculpture at the airport? This symbol of Mesoamerican culture is so powerful and inspiring. I’m glad I paused to snap the picture; usually when I’m in the airport I’m rushing from Point A to Point B. But I admired this one example of public art in Mérida’s international airport. There is probably more public art in our lovely airport, but none of it really has ever commanded my attention.
I found some information online: The fiberglass piece by Sergio de la Rosa, a Mexican sculptor who specializes in wildlife, and painted by Mérida artist Ariel Guzman, promoted the Ninth World Congress of Wilderness in 2009, but was in the airport as recently as spring 2013. De la Rosa actually constructed many jaguars, painted by numerous other artistic collaborators, and they were placed along the Pasaje de la Revolución outside the Mucay and the Paseo de Montejo.
Back in November, I was looking forward to being greeted by the red jaguar, or another art installation, on my next trip, but here is what was in its place.
On our most recent trip, I snapped a photo of it (always planning ahead for a blog post) and two bag handlers who were helping us with our luggage immediately laughed and cheered! “Yayy! Dos Equis! You like? It’s good!” They assumed I was a fan admiring this shrine to a beer brand. I just nodded in agreement and let them reach their own conclusions. My Spanish isn’t advanced enough to explain that I’m taking a photo of this crass piece of crap so I can bitch about it on my blog.
If you want a tribute to adult beverage (as flight attendants call it when they’re selling drinks) I have a better idea. We were at Amuza at the Hyatt when we saw a Manhattan cocktail on the menu. We’ve been fooled before. They say they have Angostura bitters and they don’t. They’ll slip some Campari bitters in the glass instead. Dedicated Manhattan-ites like me are left to twist in the wind. My friends Michael and Robert even gifted me a bottle of Angostura last year after seeing my distress and reading my “bitter” rants. I nearly cried.
But look at what Amuza pulled down from its shelf. I was skeptical and asked to see the bottle.
No proper cocktail bar is without bitters, and I’m not alone in saying that. Confusingly, Angostura brand bitters don’t contain angostura bark. Amargo-Vallet, however does, and it’s hecho en México and I assume available to any bar in the country that takes the time to order it. Next time I’m at Europea, I’ll be hunting it down, too. Although this is a liquor and not as concentrated as the Angostura brand that comes in a shaker, the flavors of cherry and cloves revealed that the bitters drought in Mexico has been greatly exaggerated.
I asked the company that imports Amargo-Vallet to the U.S. about the difference. I got a reply pretty quickly:
Angostura Bitters are named such because they were formulated originally in the area of Venezuela that used to be called Angostura. Also, there is a suspicion that angostura “extract” is used in its production. Amargo-Vallet uses the actual bark of the angostura tree and therefore must be listed as an ingredient rather than grouped under “flavors” (as extracts can be listed).
So not only are there bitters in Mexico, but there are better bitters. I swear it was the best Manhattan I’ve had. The small bar at Amuza is a welcome refuge, staffing ernest and well-trained bartenders; outside, in the newly updated lobby, there is another bar which is basically a table and a few stools, also an urbane and cosmopolitan setting. A year ago we were impressed if a bar in Mérida could conjure a gin and tonic. (I almost hopped the bar at Katun once trying to demonstrate to the waiter how to make one.) The old TIM “This is Mexico” bit is fading for cocktail drinkers. I don’t have to learn to drink tequila or mezcal just because I’m in Yucatán. The comforts of home are arriving.