The latest hip drink among the twenty-somethings in Mexico is also one of the oldest beverages in North America. The current libation of choice among the young urban hipsters of Mexico City is pulque (pronounced PULL-kay), a pulpy alcoholic smoothie-like drink made from the fermented sap of the maguey plant.
The drink, which is traditionally served in large glasses, dates back a thousand years or so, to the time of the ancient Aztecs, and has been enjoyed since then mostly by older people, the unemployed, poor and rural citizens of Mexico. Suddenly it’s fashionable again in contemporary social circles as an alternative to the usual tequila drinks.
A bottled version of Pulque called Pulque La Lucha states on the label that its contents is “Older than Tequila – Stronger than Beer.”
Pulque is best served fresh-brewed, making it difficult to ship, so it is just beginning to work its way north of the border into the U.S. market. Anthony Bourdain recently gave it a taste on his No Reservations show, describing pulque as “kind of like baby food that gets you drunk.”
In Mexico, pulque is served in pub-like establishments called pulquerias and can be enjoyed in a wide range of flavors including pistachio, walnut, and oyster. In the 19th century pulquerias were as ubiquitous in parts of Mexico as Starbucks are in the U.S. today. In 1886, one census counted 817 pulquerias in Mexico City, back when there were only 9,000 homes in the capital, according to one historian quoted in a story by William Booth in the Washington Post.
Keep a look out. The way the Hispanic population is growing in the U.S., pulque may soon be on tap at a saloon near you.
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