Pulque is a milky, fermented alcoholic beverage made in Mexico from the agave plant. Its taste ranges from slightly sweet to slightly sour, depending on how old it is. But “young” and “old” are very relative terms here, because Pulque only has a life span of a few days. A few days after fermentation has finished, Pulque will be too old and sour to drink.
Young Pulque is somewhat sweet, and therefore is called “Pulque Dulce” (sweet Pulque) or “Tlachique.” Its alcohol content is 2 to 4 %.
Older Pulque is higher in alcohol, somewhat sour, and is called “Pulque Fuerte.” Its alcohol content will is 5 to 7 %.
To make Pulque, you cut a hollow into a ripe piña, the part of the agave plan that its sap flows into. For more information on this process and piñas, see Aguamiel.
The sap is siphoned out, using a wooden tube. The sap can then be allowed to ferment on its own from yeasts in the air, or yeast can be added.
Once fermented, Pulque can be drunk on its own, or sweetened with honey or fruit juice.
In the late 1800s, the Mexican middle-classes stopped drinking it, and since then, it has been drunk chiefly by the lower classes. Places that sell it are called “puiquerias;” most pulquerias are male-only.
Many young urban Mexicans haven’t even have heard of Pulque as it lost the popularity contest with beer and rum. Consequently, there isn’t enough demand to encourage people to try to make a living by making Pulque. Currently, there is an attempt to remarket it and make it more popular by pasteurizing to extend its shelf life, and selling it in pop cans, with flavouring.
Flavoured Pulque is called “Pulque Curado.” In some places in Mexico, it’s mixed with chile.
It’s a myth that feces from animals or humans was used to kick off the fermentation of Pulque.
Pulque was being made for several hundred years before the Aztecs.
Aztec priests gave Pulque to their human sacrifices before killing them. On one occasion, the Aztecs sacrificed 20,000 people in one day to dedicate a new temple.
Ordinary people could only drink it at festivals, unless they were over the age of 52, or were ill.
The Aztecs and Nahuatl Indians thought that Pulque was a gift from the gods, and had many myths explaining how it came to them.
The Aztecs believed that allowing women to be involved in preparing or serving Pulque would cause it to go bitter. This belief is still held by some today, thus the men-only Pulque bars.
The Aztecs called it “octili poliqhui.”
“Pulque” is called “Charagua” in Tlaxcala state.
Marshall, Claire. Mexico’s ancient drink under threat. BBC News. Sunday, 26 December 2004.