Pulque: A Oaxacan Tradition

Juan Hernandez is my girlfriend’s great uncle. He lives a 6 hour bus ride from Oaxaca City and then another hour taxi ride up step mountain roads in the countryside near Juxtlahuaca, Mexico. The town has no cell service. The residents farm and live a mostly subsistence life selling their extra vegetables in the market on weekends. I was able to stay with them for a few days last autumn while visiting family nearby.

In the rural towns of Oaxaca, pulque which is made from the fermented sap of the maguey plant is the alcoholic drink of choice. It’s made by cutting out the inner most leaves forming a pool. Three times a day the sap is collected and added to the existing nectar in jars which has already fermented naturally. Once added it only takes an hour or two to ferment. When it’s fresh, it’s damn tasty.

A Sacred Tradition

There’s a few origin stories about pulque. My favorite being that it was discovered by a possum who became the first drunk. The drink itself is sweet, slightly acidic. It’s history is sacred and it’s use is practical. On one of the days I was there workers harvesting dried corn in the field across the street came by and bought pulque as a nice daytime refreshment break. There are a few pulqueria’s in Mexico City and beyond but it’s not the same drink. If you can’t have it fresh, I recommend not having it at all. Do yourself a favor and get out into the Oaxaca countryside. Find some mezcal and some homemade pulque.

Aguamiel and TimeThe Recipe of Tradition