To get back to my Mexican trip where I left off, I had just gotten back from a weekend the state of Hidalgo, filming a video with friends' band Polka Madre. One town that we visited was a dusty working class village called Appan, where we drank a lot of Pulque. Pulque is an alchoholic beverage made from fermented maguey, the same cactus-like plant that they make mescal out of. Although Pulque is available in the city and many parts of Mexico, my chilango friends told me that Hidalgo is the best place to drink it. There, you are closer to the source and the drink goes through a natural, organic fermentation process. The Pulquerias in Mexico city are mostly nasty and there are a host of urban legends about how they get the Pulque to ferment quicker, including using cow and even human shit.
Even when created in the most wholesome, pastoral environment, Pulque is still a thick, slimy, milky substance that many non-Mexicans would be wary of. It has a mild tangy flavor like plain yogurt with a bit of grassiness. The locals drink it mixed with juices like coconut or mango plus yogurt or fruit soda. Pulque has a low alcohol content, so the idea is to get as much inside of you as possible. Once you do this, you begin to get a goofy, blissed-out buzz, more like being stoned than drunk. It was a laid back but giddy feeling that I couldn't quite separate from the natural buzz I had from being drenched in the desert sun of Hidalgo all weekend.
The Pulquerias themselves that we visited in Appan were mostly behind unmarked doors- semi-clandestine spots in the courtyards of peoples homes, or, once, in a barn with chickens and dogs running around. There, the Pulque drinkers, mostly men, sit all day and drink incredible amounts of the stuff. They talk about Pulque with a pious reverence. At one point we were told by a drinker that two days after drinking Pulque a man will have superhuman virility and vigorous sperm. Later, another gestured to our skinny forearms and told us that if we kept drinking pulque we would get thick wrists like him and his buddy. Often in these places there would be old men intermittently laughing and crying, slumping over or getting up to sing along with the ever-present guitarist. The in the Pulqueria you buy it by the pitcher, which is then dipped into an open barrel of the stuff and sometimes mixed with an even thicker, nastier liquid from a smaller barrel which must be some kind of Pulque concentrate or residue from the fermentation. The cost of a pitcher was something like 12 cents U.S., and once we had bought a few of them, people kept coming around and refilling our mugs from their own pitchers, not letting us walk out of there without drinking our own weight.
Im not not sure if it was all the Pulque or a few of the dodgy tacos that I had while in Appan, but when we got back to the city I was sick, along with a few other from the film crew, for days. There defintely is a high bacteria content in homemade Pulque, and drinking it in an open vat in that barn surrounded by livestock probably wasn't a good idea to begin with. I'm not sure if I'll be pushing Pulque as the next big thing, or even ever drinking it again, but it defintely was something I wouldn't want to have missed.