Pulque - Ancient drink of the Aztecs

The first taste of pulque is usually followed by a grimace.  The smell is strong and pungent, the flavor sour.   The drink is milky, a bit foamy, and slightly carbonated from the fermentation process.  We believe it to be an acquired taste - try it more than once and you’ll be hooked.

pulque next to a fish castle

Pulque is an alcoholic beverage made by fermenting the aguamiel, or sap, of the maguey plant (pictured below).  Magueys, which are part of the agave family, reach maturity and flower between 6-9 years of age.  In order to make pulque, the plant is punctured repeatedly just as it reaches maturity, preventing it from flowering and encouraging the production of the aguamiel. Where the plant is punctured, a bowl is carved in order to collect the sap.  When enough has been collected, the sap is naturally fermented without adding yeast, and at the end of the rapid fermentation process becomes pulque.  Pulque is usually consumed right away, as the shelf life is quite short.

Maguey plants from agave family used to make pulque and mezcal

A more popular drink that comes from the maguey plant is mezcal - or, if it comes from the blue agave plant in the state of Jalisco, tequila.  Mezcal is made by distilling the heart of the maguey plant.  Below is a distillery owner from Opongio carving out the heart of a maguey to make mezcal.

Wikipedia states: In the Aztec pantheon of deities, pulque production was represented by the god of pulque, Tepoztecatl, (he of Tepoztlan) and the gods of drunkenness, such as Macuil-Tochtli or Five Rabbit and Ometochtli or Two Rabbit, both part of the pantheon of Centzon Totochtin, the four hundred rabbit gods of drunkenness.

While wildly popular after the Spanish conquest, pulque is harder to find now because of the popularity of Mexican beer and tequila.  At the very edge of a tiny village between here and Pátzcuaro, you can give a knock on a non-descript black door and buy some fresh pulque by the liter.  For those who do not enjoy the strong taste of pulque, honey or fruit juice can be added for a sweeter flavor.

brian with pulque in front of one of our maguey plants

At the Bosque there are many magueys at different stages of their lives.  Some large, just about ready to flower - others only the size of a fist.  Over the last three years we have planted over three thousand maguey seeds.  In a few more years we will be able to harvest the aguamiel to try to make pulque, or agave nectar (miel de agave), from the maguey plant.   If we use sanitary conditions, champagne yeast, and age the product as one would with mead, we might be able to produce a modern version of pulque - using an ancient idea with brewing techniques from today.

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