From Splurge to Steal: A Mexico City Packing List for the Trip Home
We're always wishing we could bring Mexico home with us. And we do try. Over the years we've smuggled back our share of dried chilies, fresh tortillas, and even pastries from Rosetta. But every now and then an adventure feels deserving of a bonafide "recuerdo" with a slightly longer lifespan. At the end of a recent jaunt to the D.F., our bags were predictably stuffed to the gills with loot—and not just the usual mole and piloncillo. Wondering what to bring home from Mexico City? Here are three of our favorite reasons to pack an empty suitcase.
1. A boutique perfume studio with soul
You won't find a more beautifully packaged or presented tribute to Mexico than the locally made fragrances at Verónica Peña's months-old Xinú Perfumes (pronounced "shee-noo", the name means "nose" in Otomí). A lifelong plant-enthusiast, she founded the purpose-driven perfumería to document the visual and olfactory richness of American botanicals.
Xinú's debut collection, inspired by Peña's native country, showcases regional botanicals like Mexican tuberose, marigold, and agave (we fell for the woodsy, copal and mesquite-scented "Copalá" right away). Plant lovers can visit the Polanco garden atelier to commune with featured species like reina de la noche, a nocturnal cactus flower that blossoms only once each year in the span of a single night.
Reverence for caliber Mexican materials and craftsmanship extends beyond the perfume, itself, informing every detail of the Xinú vision. The packaging is printed with collages and illustrations contributed by local artists. The bottles, which are made in Mexico City using hand-blown glass and certified walnut, are also a case study in cunning sustainable design; once empty, they reconfigure to form stackable incense holders and vases. Genius.
Xinú Perfumes; Alejandro Dumas 161
2. Mezcal that no one will have but you
If you board your flight home from Mexico City without stashing a couple of well-cushioned mezcals in your suitcase, were you ever actually there?
Mexico's national heritage spirit is a popular souvenir, with good reason. But if you're looking for a bottle worth saving (at least until your next quinceañera), the best place to begin your quest is the tasting table of a savvy mezcal fixer.
To describe Andrea's mezcals as "small-batch" would be an understatement. She sources exclusively from family distilleries in her native Guerrero—mom-and-pop mezcaleros who use traditional methods to produce just enough of the elixir to satisfy the needs of the local market (i.e. the surrounding villages). Since traditional small-town distillers rarely bottle their product, the only way to sample it is to travel to rural Guerrero. Or book a pairing with Andrea.
She'll pour mezcals made from a different species of agave than most commercial varieties you will have encountered, and depending on her inventory, you'll likely have an opportunity to try something pretty unusual, like mezcal infused with hibiscus flowers or "damiana", a wild herb believed to have aphrodisiac properties. At the end of a mezcal-fueled evening, you'll take home your favorite in a glass bottle hand-painted by Guerrerense artisans.
3. Enrique Olvera's favorite ceramics
With collections on the tables at Quintonil and Pujol, Alberto Díaz de Cossío is, basically, the ceramicist to Mexico City's culinary stars. But you wouldn't know it from the driveway of his unmarked Coyoacán workshop. You may even have trouble identifying the doorbell, but linger long enough outside the gate at Avenida de Centenario #63, and eventually, the resident gaggle of Xoloitzcuintle pups will make your presence known.
A neighborhood fixture since the '60s, when its founder installed Mexico's first high-temperature kilns, the Díaz de Cossío family's school and studio has an impressive 50-year history and a disarming lived-in feel. For the local ceramics students who study here, it's a creative sanctuary. For the ceramics-obsessed visitor, it's a trove of sophisticated and affordable Mexican stoneware. The display of bowls, mugs, and teapots by Díaz de Cossío disciples will have you outfitting the hypothetical kitchen of your hypothetical Mexican pied-a-terre. Don't miss the selection of current student work, which is arranged separately on an outdoor table—and sold by the kilo!
Taller Experimental de Cerámica; Avenida de Centenario 63