By: Junior Merino, The Liquid Chef
When contemplating drinks of the gods in ancient Mexico, two drinks stand out- xocoatl (chocolate) & iztac octli (a drink similar to pulque). Nobility, back then, were considered to be gods among men and priests and warriors were next in the hierarchy. Though both drinks were consumed by nobility, priests and warriors were allowed to consume octli. Among commoners, octli would be served to elders and to pregnant women, which was said to relieve pain.
Xocoatl was only drank by the elite nobility. It was a bitter drink said to give the drinker divine inspiration from the gods. Even the latin name for the cocoa tree, theobroma cacao, means “food of the gods”. Cacao was such a precious commodity that it was even used as currency. One cacao would purchase a meat dumpling or tamal and 100 cacao would purchase a turkey hen.
According to legend, sacrifice victims would be given a chocolate drink mixed with blood of previous victims to alleviate their sadness in their deaths and to stimulate them to join in the dance rituals that precede their demise.
Iztac octli, or white liquor, according to legend, was supposed to be the blood of Mayauel, goddess of the agave. It was drank on feast days as well as to honor a great victory. To abuse iztac octli by the priests or warriors, or in simple words, to be seen publicly intoxicated by this sacred elixir was punishable by death.
This drink is made from extracting the sap that would collect in the heart of the maguey plant until the plant dies. The plant would then be harvested and shredded and a course material would be made from its fibers.
This is a legend about the god of the morning star coming to earth among the Toltecs, who immediately saw this being as divine. They quickly erected temples and worshiped him as their god. The god of the morning star stole a small bush from the land of the gods and planted it on earth. He asked the god rain and the goddess of love to care for the plant. Since all three gods cared for their people, the goddess taught the women of the tribe to harvest and roasted the beans and to make a bitter powder that would be added to water and drunk by royalty.
The other gods quickly became enraged at the theft of their sacred plant and sent the god of darkness and night, disguised as merchant to the god of the morning star who had just awoken from a dream in which he dreamt that the other gods were plotting against him. The disguised god of night asked the beloved god why he was so sad. The god of the morning star explained the dream and the disguised god offered him a drink to make him happy again. The juice that was given to him, however was octli. The beloved god drank, and drank and drank. He danced around, jumped about and his people did not understand his behavior and the other gods laughed at him.
He left his beloved city in shame and saw that his cocoa plants had transformed into spiny agave plants, which produced the drink that brought about his shame. Before fleeing the land, never to return, the god of the morning star planted the last of his cacao beans by hand close to the sea and vanished. This was his last gift to mankind.
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