The venerable vaso veladora is a true Mexican classic. Originally these glass cups were used in Catholic churches to contain prayer candles. You drop a few coins in the church’s donation box and then light a candle so that you can say a prayer for someone. The fluttering illumination of a bank of these candles adds to the ambience of every Catholic church. Each vaso has a cruxifix imprinted on its base to remind you of its purpose.
Somewhere along the line, someone had the bright idea of borrowing the candle container to drink mezcal and a whole new category was born. Today you find them both in churches and bars. There’s something fundamental in that connection, perhaps Carlos Fuentes has written about it. I suspect that the same glass foundry supplies both church and bar.
But vaso veladoras aren’t just another pretty glass. They are extremely utilitarian because their shape makes them difficult to break and very portable: That is, you can easily have one crushed into your pocket, backpack, or briefcase. The dual, religious and secular uses no doubt mean that at some people use them to embrace that duality. And, the crucifix in their base adds an existential dimension: You are reminded of your mortality with every sip. In gastronomic terms, their squat, wide mouthed, shape makes them an ideal vessel for mezcal. You won’t be overwhelmed by alcohol vapor while receiving just the right amount of exposure to all the scents present in a bottle.