September 6, 2011 / 9:24 PM / 7 years ago

Uncool Aztec cocktail suddenly hip again in Mexico

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Move over tequila. Another potent alcoholic drink is warming the bodies of Mexico City’s hip young drinkers.

Brewed by Aztec ancestors over a thousand years before and having survived the Spanish colonialists and mass European migration the traditional beverage, pulque, once deemed uncool is making a comeback.

Business is booming for the pulque producers in Mexico’s central heartland of Tlaxcala. Made from an agave plant native to the country called maguey, pulque is derived from the plant’s sap pulled from its roots and left to ferment in vats for 48 hours.

The result is a slimy alcoholic beverage that pre-dates tequila by a long shot and a drink that has been both revered and reviled over the centuries.

Once a drink for Aztec nobleman and today’s beverage of choice for the traditional Mexican working class, a museum exhibition dedicated to the tumultuous times of the pulque has opened in Mexico City.

“Between the Aztecs the drink was reserved for the nobles and priests for ceremonial use and for pregnant women. The Aztecs had a high regard for this sticky beverage,” said museum director Salvador Zarco.

Showcasing all things pulque, the exhibition covers traditional production techniques, an ancient map of the country where the potent drink was produced and a life-sized model of Mexico City’s pulque bars, “pulquerias,” to show off a drink that has occupied an important part of the country’s history from its pre-Hispanic era, through revolutionary struggles and to the drinkers of today.

“The idea behind promoting these cantinas at this exhibition is to show off the image of pulque and everything surrounding its production process, consumption and economy,” said exhibition curator Miguel Angel Corona.

Once famed throughout the country during its independence movement as the choice of drink for Mexican patriots, 200 years on, the powerful cocktail is only just recovering from a fierce propaganda campaign against it by beer companies.

That negative sentiment was also helped by mass European migration, which changed the face of the country and attitudes toward the traditional drink.

Today, Mexico City’s pulquerias like “Las Duelistas” are booming. With their own Facebook accounts and thousands of dedicated followers, the now popular bars are packed with the capital’s young and fashionable rediscovering the ancient drink for the first time.

Pulqueria owner Arturo Garrido told Reuters that about 10 years ago his cantina was for older people and pulque consumption was drying up as young people looked elsewhere and campaigns against pulque almost ended its production in Mexico.

“But, we are seeing a resurgence and I think we are going to keep up this trend for a long time to come,” Garrido said.

Jumping on the popular trend, an estimated 50 bars dedicated to the ancient beverage across Mexico City have been made-over with a hip alternative feel, complete with the latest in music fads and the country’s youth are now rubbing shoulders with pulque aficionados from generations before.

“My parents don’t like pulque as there were restrictions in Mexico City so they hardly drink it but my grandparents are big fans of pulque so there is a generation that likes it, one that doesn’t and another that has returned to it, which is really cool,” said pulque drinker Carlos Ricano.

Cool factor aside, with a variety of flavors ranging from celery to mango, never has the Aztec drink been healthier, and at about 25 pesos ($2) for one liter the Aztec beverage does not discriminate across socioeconomic spheres.

Exported around the world from Japan to Canada and Ukraine and with pulque guides for tourists popping up over the country, producers of the Aztec drink believe that its heyday may be still to come and it may rival tequila as Mexico’s premiere drink.

Editing by Paul Casciato

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