Pox is a unique Mayan spirit created by the Tzotzil Mayans in Chiapas. With Tequila and Mezcal being on top of the list, Pox is one of the lesser-known spirits from Mexico. Even Sotol is more popular than this ancient Mayan liquor. And while most other Mexican spirits are based on agave plants of different kinds, Pox is made of corn and sugarcane. By the way, the x in Pox is pronounced “sh”, like with many Mayan words.
The spirit’s origin dates back hundreds of years, yet it is not very famous across the globe. So it is about time to take a closer look at it and give you some information about “Posh”.
What is Pox?
As already mentioned, it is a liquor made by the Tzotzil Mayans in Chiapas, Mexico. It’s also known as agua ardiente, which literally translates to “fire water” or “burning water.” The liquor plays a significant role in Mayan culture and is often used in religious ceremonies in the Chiapas region.
The production of this spirit is not regulated, and therefore, you can get many different types of Pox. But what most of them have in common, though, is a high percentage of alcohol and a slightly smoky taste with a hint of sweetness.
For a long time, it was only available in the Chiapas region because it was prohibited to sell the spirit outside its native region. That changed only nine years ago, and now Pox is starting to gain traction in bars across Mexico and the US.
The Mayan Spirit that lets you visit the underworld
As a traditional Mayan spirit, it is used in religious ceremonies. In the Tzotzil Mayans language, Pox is the equivalent to “medicine” or “healing.” Indigenous communities used it to cure physical and spiritual problems. The high amount of alcohol combined with the burn was associated with healing from stomach pains and the relief from evil spirits.
The burning feeling after drinking Pox is said to be caused by evil spirits leaving your body. And the comforting warmth following the burn is then filling the void the evil spirits left behind. It’s also believed that Mayan priests and warriors used Pox to visit the underworld.
Why Mexican spirits are on the rise
For a very long time, Tequila was the only popular spirit coming from Mexico. At least on a global level. But with the rise of Mezcal, which suddenly kind of went viral, more and more people are getting interested in other Mexican spirits as well. That also helped Sotol to establish a place in the world of liquors. And it certainly doesn’t hurt Pox.
Additionally, the timing to legally allow selling Pox outside of the native region was just perfect. Since 2012 you can get Pox more easily. A brilliant time to benefit from the success of Mezcal. And as it was kept a secret for such a long time, many bartenders become curious and experimented with it. And today, you can find it in many bars across Mexico and in quite some American bars, too.
How to make Pox
There are many different ways of making and flavoring Pox. That results in a wide range of products. For instance, you can get Pox with an ABV of 19%, but also with 53%. The lower ABV versions are usually infused and macerated. And only the stronger ones are used in Mayan ceremonies.
The key ingredients are corn, wheat, and sugarcane, which is fermented for approximately ten days before the mix is distilled in a copper still. And for traditional reasons, the Pox production is usually timed by the lunar calendar. The process starts with a new moon because this phase stands for a “new beginning.”
Most of the Pox production is hand-made, respecting traditional Mayan methods.
What does Pox taste like?
Pox’s taste can vary widely. But the majority combine a light smokiness with sweetness from the corn. This mix of toasty notes and the sweet aftertaste is comparable with that of a good Rum. More corn-heavy versions also come close to the flavor of smoked corn tortillas. Either way, the Pox is an excellent replacement for Rum. That makes it a beautiful fit for twists on classic Tiki cocktails like the Mai-Tai.
Pox as a cocktail ingredient
There are plenty of ways to use Pox in cocktails beside the above-mentioned Tiki cocktails. Its distinct, unique flavor profile is a perfect match for twists of all kinds. And because this is a rather extensive topic, I dedicated a whole article to cocktails made with Pox, which you can find here.
Pox is an intriguing and unique spirit with an ancient history. The Mayan spirit still plays a significant part in Tzotzil Mayan culture, but it is also one of the new and upcoming Mexican spirits. If you want to try it yourself, a bottle of Siglo Cero would be a good choice. -It’s one of the very few brands that are easily accessible at the time of writing this article.