Mexico has at least four major alcoholic beverages to its credit:
Like tequila and mezcal, pulque (pool-kay) is made from the fermented juice of the maguey, a type of agave (which is NOT a cactus but a big aloe vera-like plant — and a classic symbol of Mexico. We even own one.) These plants grow into giant monsters, by the way. Sotol is made from a yucca-like desert plant.
Until last weekend, I had not tried pulque. It made me a little nervous. Why? Brendan tried it not long after we moved here, and declared the texture “similar to snot” (think: aloe vera gel). And most traditional pulquerías are kind of dirty and gross — the pulque is ladeled out of big plastic buckets and the conditions are not exactly what you might call sanitary.
Yeah, not selling points for Joy. But to not try pulque is pretty lame for someone who lives in Mexico. So I had slowly been working up my nerve.
For a long time, this was a drink of the poor. Originally, before the Spanish conquistadors arrived, it was a fancy traditional drink for the Aztecs and other Mexican cultures. Tepoztecatl, in fact, was the god of pulque, drunkenness, and fittingly, fertility. Then, once the indigenous people were treated to hundreds of years of brutality by the Spanish, their favored drink started to disappear and thrived only in a few, shabby pulquerias.
In recent years, pulque has made somewhat of a comeback, as college students here in Mexico make it fashionable to drink pulque. As a result, there are now sanitized pulquerias perfect for leery patrons like me. Pulqueria La Tia Yola in Tlaxcala was upscale, clean, cheery. I ordered a flavored pulque made with pine nuts. Brendan got the pistachio.
How was it?
Fortunately — very fortunately — it was not snot-like. More like sipping a watery yogurt (Brendan, who now considers himself a pulque expert after having tried it exactly one more time than me, branded Tia Yola’s pulque “weak.”) It tasted healthy, which is a strange feeling when you’re in a bar.
Overall, I’m not exactly eager to try it again, but am glad I worked up the nerve to tie one on with Tepoztecatl.