Dia de los muertos, the Day of the Dead, is observed across Mexico on November 1st and 2nd. The lively celebration includes colorful decorations and elaborate ofrendas (altars) that feature food and drinks to welcome back the souls of the departed to the world of the living. And while there are iconic dishes and beverages that must be present on every table and altar, some producers are coming up with creative takes on some of the classics. Here are five that you can enjoy in Mexico City right now.
Pulque de cempasúchil
Doña Vero runs a very popular restaurant, known for its menu featuring unusual fare such as mezcal marinated venison quesadillas and offbeat seasonal specialties. For Day of the Dead festivities she serves pulque – an ancient fermented beverage derived from agave sap – infused with marigold flowers, known in Mexico as cempasúchil (cem-pah-soo-cheel). It’s a family recipe that her mother used to prepare for her grandparent’s altar.
Cempasúchil flowers are iconic of the festivities, thought to attract the souls of the dead to the altars thanks to their strong, unique aroma. The flowers are edible, of course, and give a vibrant orange color to any food or drink.
The mildly alcoholic beverage may be an acquired taste for some, but Doña Vero sells mug after frosty mug to her legions of fans.
Pan de Muerto Negro
At Panaderia Rosetta, the high end bakery of renowned chef Elena Reygadas, the seasonal hit is pan de muerto. This sweet, brioche-like loaf is flavored with anise and orange blossom water, decorated with strips of dough to resemble bones. It is not a Day of the Dead celebration without it, widely enjoyed with coffee or hot chocolate for breakfast or late night supper.
At Rosetta, however, they added a twist, coating the breads with powdered corn husk ash before adding the traditional granulated sugar topping. The result is striking and delicious, and a homage to ancient pre-Hispanic cooking techniques.
Ofrenda Flavored Ice Creams
Heladeria Escandón is a boutique ice cream shop owned by Ilian Castañeda Vázquez and Maximiliano Olvera García, in the heart of Colonia Condesa. Their goal is to produce artisanal ice cream and “punksicles” in unusual shapes and flavors, highlighting seasonal offerings and creative combinations.
For Day of the Dead, Max has transformed the whole ice cream case into a frozen ofrenda, featuring flavors that evoke traditional foods usually found in people’s altars.
Among those represented are cinnamon cookie, guava-tejocote (hawthorn), and double chocolate, next to unusual offerings such as Mexican pumpkin, pan de muerto, and yes, cempasúchil. He uses fresh flowers to make an infusion, then adds tiny flecks of petals and leaves and blends them into the creamy mixture. The result is sweet and floral, with hints of vanilla custard. To complement the ice creams, the team is also making dark chocolate skulls and gilded pan de muerto.
Made from corn dough and filled with a variety of ingredients, gorditas are a street food staple in Mexico. At the famous Jamaica Market, in the prepared food section, Las Weritas are famous for their generously filled snacks with all the trimmings. This year, the popular stall is taking them one step beyond, making them with blue corn and in the shape of pan de muerto.
La Nahuala is filled with sauteed squash blossoms and mushrooms, accompanied by Philadelphia cheese for an extra creamy consistency. If you like it spicy order La Llorona, same as Nahuala but with chile habanero added for that extra tear-inducing zing.
Last but not least, Cervecería Modelo has entered the flavored beer arena with Victoria Cempasúchil. Made in Mexico with cempasúchil flower extract, it doesn’t have the strong aroma or flavor of the flowers, but it is a unique brew. Yellowish orange in color, it is slightly cloudy, with light floral and cereal notes on the nose. The flavor is sweet and malty, mildly bitter and refreshing. At 4.2% AVB, it is meant to be paired with the foods of the season such as mole, spicy foods, and even pan de muerto.