Fresh Pulque poured to a froth

Pulque: Mexico’s Wine of the Gods

Pulque poured into a white froth

Imbibed by local shaman, spiritual healers and trendy locals, the Mexican drink known as pulque will always be proudly associated with  Mexico’s ancient civilizations and the Aztec region that surrounds Mexico City. 

The sacred agave liquor is only mildly alcoholic, ranging from 2% to 8% depending on the degree of fermentation. The fresher the pulque, the cleaner and more refreshing the flavor. The drink’s texture is also smoother when fresh, as it tends to grow more viscous over time and can take on an off-putting stringiness.

Pulque being poured and in a cup, is a refreshing beer-like beverage made from the fermented sap of the maguey also called agave.
The Aztec called pulque, ixtac octli, which means white liquor.

Fortunately for new connoisseurs, pulque’s survival was guaranteed when it became the drink of the working class and a source of national pride. The drink is a remembrance of things past, back to a time when agave’s sharp, spiky leaves were used by ancient high priests for blood letting and ritual sacrifice.

Pulque, called octli in Nahuatl, (ancient Aztec) is made from the sap of an 8 to 12 year-old agave plant, also called maguey. The drink is referenced in ancient Mexican codices as a gift from Mayahuel, the goddeess of fertility. 

Women drinking pulque, Codex Tudela 

The sap from this plant is called aguamiel (meaning “honey water”) and is extracted using a fat plastic tube. 

The main varieties of maguey plant used for making pulque is native to the area surrounding Mexico City, the same region where the Aztec civilization flourished for hundreds of years.

Good pulque rarely makes it out of central Mexico and drinking it in a local pulqueria not only gives you a taste of the drink at its best, but also the experience of where it comes from. 

If you want to try it, be warned this is no ordinary beer. It has some quite odd side effects that includes feeling weak in the knees. Its potency and psychoactive properties are also increased with the addition of certain roots and herbs.

My last visit to Mexico only made it as far as the Yucatan. So, I recently tried to satisfy my curiosity at a Mexican bar in New York City. The poster said, “pulque served here” and the spiky plants sitting outside on the sidewalk were definitely agave, identified by my phone app. The place seemed pretty legit. Unfortunately, my hopes were dashed when the barman told me they were “fresh-out”.

Certainly glad to here they made it fresh and not just sitting around getting stringy. Until next time, hopefully this Spring, I’ll be back for a taste of pulque made right in Bushwick, Brooklyn! Will let you know…

Tequila and mezcal making essentials.



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