Of course, my first post after a two-month hiatus is going to be about drinking pulque in Guadalajara.
Is there a better way to decompress after finally applying to transfer to a university and finally (somewhat) writing for a living? I think not. OK, perhaps drinking some Tesqüino, corn booze, from Raramuri natives in Chihuahua? One day. For now, I’ll settle for this.
Although Guadalajara has contributed to perhaps the most popular craft brew in all of Mexico with its prideful “Minerva” beer. There are still some local pulqueria’s if you look hard enough. Google “pulqueria” and “Guadalajara” and one of the first hits you will see is a message on Yahoo Mexico Respuestas stating “no creo porque en guadalajara no son pulqueros, son cerveceros y tequileros.” Well, while that is undoubtedly true. There are still a proud few available to those who choose to chug the luscious fermented sap of the Maguey plant instead.
La Pulkata is a chill pulqueria in Guadalajara, one of two left in the whole city according to the guy who was serving us. La Pulkata located in a suburban part of town, on two small streets named Pedro Loza & Eulogio Parra. It’s still hard as hell to find with the nearest metro stop being a couple of miles away. But as soon as you spot an old toilet that has been transformed into a pot with a flowering Blue Agave plant with a hand brushed sign that reads “La Pulkata” in opaque paint – you’re there.
La Pulkata not so much a bar or place to drink alcohol than it is a café to meet a friend and chat. The room is small, with a few tables and a sofa set before the main counter. The walls are adorned with those popular black and white portraits of thick-mustached Mexican revolutionaries like Pancho Villa sipping pulque, you know, those that make you wonder why pulque is almost extinct?
Some pleasantly fast Mexican Ska-core music will probably be bumping loudly on one of those old-school, blocky wooden consoles in the middle of the drinking area. Sit down anywhere, the easygoing young dude with sagged pants and frizzled hair will come to you and take your order.
The menu for “curaditos,” the cutesy name given to pulque that is blended with fruits, veggies and grains is hand written and is rather extensive. It includes flavors like carrot, peanut, oatmeal, jicama, cucumber, guava or just “blanco,” the pure milky sap served as is without anything added; sour, my favorite.
My lovely girlfriend and her friend acting as my drinking mates for the evening ask nicely if there is a way we can taste a little of all of them. A minute later, tiny “probadita” sized shot cups arrive to the table in pairs and sometimes trio’s. They show up as fast as the bar’s small blender in the back could whip them up. Each curado is blended only moments before so the fruit sediment is still floating around the inside of your cup when you receive it.
The server and one-man kitchen staff started me off with a blanco “na-tu-ral.” The sap tastes just like it did when I sucked it out of the Maguey myself in my tio’s rancho in El El Jagüey, Hidalgo. The taste? Hmm…well, something like the Indian probiotic drink, kefir but mixed with the acidic tinge of G.T. Dave’s “Green Algae” Kombucha then add the texture of the Korean, unfiltered rice wine, Magkoli? Even then, the flavor and texture is completely unique of all these things.
Next to the blanco is the unfermented counterpart of pulque called Aguamiel, the sweet, translucent juice before the sugar is turned alcoholic. Then the guayaba (guava), tasting more like a Mexican licuado or thicker version of an Agua Fresca made with the aromatic fruit. Then the cacahuate, thick and extra milky with blended roasted peanuts that tastes like a drinkable version of the Mexican candy, Mazapan. Every other curado followed this delicious pattern of tasting just like the fruit or vegetable or grain it was blended with right after after.
As per Mexican tradition when out drinking, a complimentary “botana” or snack is always available if you ask for it. The botana for this particular evening at La Pulkata was a plate of sliced crisp jicama and slivered cucumber with a tiny bowl filled with Chile con Gusanito, the dried chili powder mixture enlivened with the earthiness of Agave wormies.
After trying each of the pulque’s. I ordered a full cup (similar to the traditional “tornillo” size cup of the drink) of the peanut one followed by a cup of the natural, white one, extra sour.
Like beer, pulque is pretty damn filling. After tasting all of them and drinking two full tornillo sized portions, I was pretty full. Although, not really buzzed at all. Fortunately though, someone had just brought in some local raicilla for the bar to try. Raicilla is the other agave liquor made from the non-blue wild agave’s that grow around the Jalisco Mountains. In Mexico, we don’t have digestif’s but we do have sharp tasting agave spirits “para el desempanse.” Literally translating to “de-gut” your belly after eating a lot of food or drinking a lot of liquids.
And the raicilla did just that. It was called “Sierra Mascota” and it was the best I have ever sipped, tasting elatedly of tropical fruits like cherimoya and pineapple; not aggressive at all. I would of bought a bottle if it wasn’t the bar’s only one they had.
I liked the light curados and thin blanco’s here a lot more than the thick-as-hell, slimy ones that I had at Pulqueria “Las Duelistas” in Mexico City. But no matter what, there is nothing like sucking it out of the Maguey itself and drinking it at room temperature a few hours later.
Nonetheless, I’ll take pulque over beer, any day and any way.
Pedro Loza 719,
5 PM to 11 PM Monday through Thursday
5 PM to 1 AM Friday and Saturday