Pulque – Mexico’s Lesser-Known Tradition

Although tequila might seem to get all of the attention when it comes to liquors that hail from Mexico, there is a lesser-known beverage called pulque which has been around since the pre-Hispanic era in the country. In fact, it is so beloved in Mexico that it is thought of as one of the most significant traditional drinks produced there. It is produced by fermenting the sap, commonly referred to as mead, which is drawn from pulque maguey or agave plants. When you are vacationing in Mexico, make sure you have a chance to sample this exotic drink.  

Here is some insider information on this traditional beverage:

Where does Pulque Originate?

There are more than 70 species of pulque maguey plants grown in Mexico which can produce a range of mead styles that are extracted from the plants. These maguey varieties are delivered all over Mexico but are particularly prevalent in states including Veracruz, Tamaulipas, San Luis Potosí, Querétaro, Oaxaca, Nuevo León, Jalisco, Hidalgo, Durango, Coahuila, Chiapas and Baja California Sur.

The Production of Pulque

The state of Hidalgo is far and away the biggest producer of pulque in Mexico. In 2010, the state produced more than 206 million liters of pulque, which is equivalent to 82 percent of the total production throughout the country. In a distant second place, the state of Tlaxcala produced about 13 percent of the country’s pulque, while the State of Mexico trailed far behind with about 2 percent of the pulque production.

The Maguey Plant

Like many plants, the maguey pulquero grows well in regions where the changes in temperature are slight versus large differences in the high and low temperatures each day. They also require steady levels of water. If maguey plants do not receive adequate water, they often mature or develop more slowly, and if they receive too much water, the quality of the end product suffers because the sugar levels are diluted.

Procedures for Pulque

It usually takes somewhere between eight and twelve years for maguey plants to bloom. While they are maturing, tlachiqueros (people who gather the mead from the plants) use that time to extract the sugar-laden sap from the plants to produce pulque. Each plant has the potential to produce between five hundred and one thousand liters of mead during its productive years. The plant itself consists of dark green leaves that are long and thick which are known as pencas, which grow from the plant’s short stem called a pina. The mead is extracted from this area, and after the harvest is completed, it is time for the fermentation process to start.

Once it is Completed

Although pulque is one of the most treasured traditional beverages made in Mexico, it only makes up about 10 percent of the alcoholic beverage production total in the culturally rich and diverse country. Pulque is usually created to have an alcohol content of about 4 percent, but at times it is produced with up to eight percent alcohol. When pulque is ready to be served, it has a bit of a sour flavor, is white in color and has a thick, syrupy texture.

When you are ready to sample a unique and flavorful cultural beverage in Mexico, try pulque – Mexico’s lesser-known tradition!