La Pulkata: Drinking Against The Grain in Guadalajara, Mexico

El Mariachi Loko
El Mariachi Loko

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.

Padre Nuestro Pulquero
El Padre Nuestro Pulquero

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.

curadito de cacahuate

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.

Mezcal Sierra Mascota

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.

La Pulkata
Pedro Loza 719,
Guadalajara, Mexico
44100
tel. 33306825
cel. 3310978086
mail. pulquimia@gmail.com

5 PM to 11 PM Monday through Thursday
5 PM to 1 AM Friday and Saturday

http://www.pulquimia.org/

Pulqueria “Las Duelistas”: Drinking it Old School in Mexico City

As soon as you step foot in any part of Mexico you will quickly realize that Mexicans love beer. A cold, frosty chela will be readily available at an airport sandwich shop before you hop on your flight as well as be given to you free of charge aboard a Mexican airline if you ask nicely enough. Furthermore, what we call a “40” oz, they call a “Caguama” and it actually has 22% (1.2 Liters of beer to be exact) more beer than any 40 oz in the U.S. But before there was beer, their was pulque, the ultra-viscous libation of my pre-hispanic ancestors made from the fermented sap of the Maguey plant (Century Plant).

As a coming-of-aging Mexican-American pocho on the quest to find his opposing dual self-identity, I have sought to imbibe this elusive drink voraciously. Perhaps because it is portrayed as the official drink of thick-moustache’d Mexican revolutionaries, the heroes of the modern day literate chicano. Or maybe because it conforms to my punk-rock way of living… an alternative option that a dedicated few choose to produce and drink? Sounds like the perfect alcohol correquesite for a latino that is into punk-rock to me! Whatever it is, I am fascinated with this drink and I treat it as French Romantics treated absinthe, drinking it for deep self-reflection but ultimately, as an homage to my pre-conquista roots.

Every time I am in the motherland of my parents, I make it a point to hunt and drink pulque at least once during my short visits. Last year, I was lucky enough to actually witness how it is produced while I stayed at my tio Aurelio’s rancho in Nopala, Hidalgo. I think it was a turning point in my adult life.

First, the maguey plants needs to be “castrated” before any pulque can be acquired, that is, the tall tree-like stalk that grows from the middle of the plant is chopped and pulled off. Where the stalk was, there is now the chamber where the illustrious “Aguamiel” sap water collects. According to my uncle’s friend who drinks pulque daily, the plant produces sap three times a day, perfect for the human dietary meal plan of three meals a day. Coincidence? I think not!

Fresh from the plant, the aguamiel it is not yet alcoholic, at this point it is considered medicinal and tastes similar to drinking fresh unsweetened aloe-vera juice. As bacteria are introduced to it, the fermentation begins. After a few hours it is finally pulque. Fresh, raw pulque is like yogurt and has probiotics actually!

The Modern Pulquero
The pulquero tools
La Aguamiel
Aguamiel chamber
La Resadura Del Maguey
Maguey shavings

Anyways, the pulquero uses what I can only explain as a big-ass pipette that he sticks under his armpit to squeeze and suck up the sap and then empty out in an old plastic bottle. The pulquero must be cautious and wear this leather forearm protector, as the maguey surface around the chamber is highly irritant to the skin. Like anything else a man treasures, he must groom and maintain the maguey. In this case, he uses a sharp wedge to shave the dried surface around the spherical sap chamber. But like everything else in this world, the Maguey does not live forever. After the plant is actually old enough to produce pulque (at about 8-9 years of age), the Maguey slowly dies after each offering of its elixir, lasting only about 1-2 years shortly thereafter. It is pretty sad too, the plant slowly droops and weathers, until its completely brown and decomposed.

Ok, ok enough with my chicano-pulque 101-Dissertation stuff, back to Los Duelistas!

pulqueria duelistas
Pulqueria Los Duelistas: Signage

So, somewhere along my three-year strong twitter neuroticism, I stumbled into the account for @LaPulqueria “Los Duelistas”. They post their flavors daily, one day it would be “Martes de Maracuya” (Passionfruit Tuesday) another day it would be Jueves de Tuna Roja (Cactus Fruit Thursday) and so on and so on. Day after day, I would be tempted by their pulques, only to realize I was thousands of miles away in LA. Well, not today!

The pulqueria is located just down the street from the “San Juan de Letran” metro stop on the green line. The Aztec-graffiti layered façade shows you the new school qualities of the place, while the Mexican saloon-style swinging doors demonstrate traditional Pulquete architecture.

pulqueria ambiance
Hey! Mexico has hipsters too!

At about five pm, the place was hella-cracking with local Mexican hipsters and rasta (dreadlocks) touting brown bohemians alike. Pulque attracts the roots-revering, conscious youth of Mexico. Nobody in the room was above 30 years old. Well, except for the seasoned old servers who hustled the drinks. But even then, the old man pictured on the facebook page sported his stud belt proudly as he reached over to take peoples orders promptly. Only two flavors (out of five) were left: a fluorescent green apio(celery) and a creamy avena (oatmeal). Late 90’s U.S alternative rock favorites were being bumped loudly. A pitcher of each please!

These flavored pulques are known as “curados” (cured) pulques. And they are made by blending the unsweetened sour-as-hell natural stuff with other pureed flavorings and then letting it rest for a couple of hours for the flavors to marry. The first pitcher to arrive was the avena flavored one. After pouring it out into the plastic cups used to drink it, I now knew why Anthony Bourdain best described it as “Ryan Seacrest’s love juice”.

oatmeal pulque
Cinnamon-sprinkled oat flavored pulque at Las Duelistas
pulque viscosity porn
Pulque viscosity porn

The cloudy liquid was as thick as the sickest loogie you ever coughed up in your life but yet tasted so heavenly. It was sprinkled with cinnamon and tasted like a sweet kefir-kombucha-yogurt-adult milkshake-super-drink hybrid. It is served at room temperature so its flavor and signature viscosity is wholly unabashed and thoroughly enjoyed. The celery cured one was a lot lighter and less sweet, I actually preferred it to the oat version for that reason.

I quickly guzzled mine and ended up drinking my friends leftovers of their’s too. Not to mention still ordered an uncured and unsweetened aka. ultra-sour “blanco” pulque to taste. They wanted to progress to the next bar already and drink beer already but I could care less. I ended up going with them and drinking three “Leon” caguamas through the evening. But even the dark, Mexico-only “Munich” style beer was no match for my pulque-lined stomach anymore…

otro pulkito?

Pulqueria Los Duelistas
Aranda 28, Col
Centro (entre Ayuntamiento y Puente Peredo)
Ciudad de México, Mexico
Tel: 5513940958
Twitter: @LaPulqueria