2018 Primetime Emmy
& James Beard Award Winner

An Incredibly Frustrating Story About Not Drinking

An Incredibly Frustrating Story About Not Drinking

Virgin Bloody Marys in D.F.

This is not a story about drinking. This is a story about not drinking. Or, more accurately, a story about wanting to drink but not being able to due to a technical glitch and a legislation experiment.

I am not much of a wine drinker (though that is not actually the story either, not really). If given the choice, I’ll always go for beer or a scotch, or maybe a mojito if the occasion is juicy enough.

It is not that I hate wine, actually; being from Spain, wine was a staple at the lunch and dinner table since before I could remember, I just didn’t have much of a taste for it.

Despite my complete lack of palate, during a Holy Week in Mexico City a couple of years ago, all I wanted was to crack open a bottle of red. I had just moved to the city a few weeks prior to be a foreign correspondent for a U.S.-based publication, and Mexico was a constant surprise. Hurricanes, arrested drug lords, fiery spicy food for breakfast; it was all a learning trip, and one I attacked with gusto.

What I did not see coming, though, was how seriously they would take the alcohol ban the capital had imposed for the holidays.

Good Friday, 5 p.m. It had been particularly challenging working Holy Week, which included the strongest earthquake the country had seen in years and the death of a very beloved Nobel Prize-winner in Literature. I had no alcohol at home except for a rogue bottle of red wine that my hosts had left behind when they took off on vacation. Fine, I conceded, knowing that the city’s decree would prevent me from getting anything else, and took out a wine glass and a corkscrew.

Scratch that. The apartment had a good assortment of wine glasses but no corkscrew. So I left for the supermarket on the corner (a chi-chi chain owned by Walmart but priced at a 170 percent markup, as I would learn later) in order to get one. But they wouldn’t sell it.

“Sorry ma’am, but there is no alcohol on sale until Monday,” the guy told me when I asked him if they had any corkscrews.

I glared at him. “I do not want alcohol, I just need a corkscrew,” I replied, wondering what the translation problem could be since we were both speaking the same language.

He pointed towards the alcohol section, which was an aisle over. There was yellow tape all around it, including the area with the glasses, paper cups, bottle openers, and corkscrews. He then shook his head. “Sorry, ma’am, but no.”

Unable to say anything due to shock, I almost left the store empty handed. I can’t say the whole deal came out of left field, as I had reported on the alcohol ban: after all, it was the very first of its kind the city had undertaken, and it had caused quite a raucous protest among the hospitality industry. Holy Week is the busiest tourist time of the year, they argued, and how were people supposed to unwind?

But nothing in my week reporting had led me to believe that the corkscrew would somehow make it into the list of forbidden liquid fruit for the week.

I snapped out of my bewilderment right before leaving the store, with time enough to resort to buying some tomato juice, seltzer and lime. That Good Friday night in Mexico City, I made myself a Virgin Bloody Mary. It felt like the right time for one.

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