Pulque still conjures images from Eisenstein’s Que Viva Mexico. But a slate of happening new (and some older) pulqueria’s in Mexico City have made sure the stuff is fit for modern tastes. And it’s not just pulque. A range of similar, mostly sweet and vaguely hallucinogenic concoctions are following the stratospheric trend of Mexican mezcal toward not only infamy, but true recognition on the palettes of the brave. True, many of them may give you a historic hangover – but in moderation – they’ll also give you a taste of, and some insight into, some of Mexico’s most ancient traditions.
Pulquerias have been around since ancient times – as has pulque. All of the other, similar drinks have ancient and pre-Hispanic roots too. Many of them are from distinct regions within the country and all of them are being re-presented – with new respect and some considerable fanfare – to a Mexican public newly primed for crafted and heritage drinks.
Below are some of the finest places to sample not just pulque, but similar drinks in all of their new and updated variations.
La Poxería – “Pox” in Roma Norte
Pox is a Maya drink made since well before the Spanish – from distilled cane or corn. A little similar to a mezcal, its affect is reportedly quite powerful. Poxería, in Roma Norte, is probably the only place selling pox in the city, and a full menu is intended to highlight, this, the drink around which the entire place turns. And there’s more here.
Address: 215 Durango, Col. Roma Norte
Friday and Saturday from 18:00 to 02:00 hrs.
Tel. 55 5507 5185
Tepache’s got pretty much a terrible reputation. But it’s not warranted. Made from pineapples, sometimes from leftover pineapples – when fermented, it’s the stuff your crazy aunty has nightmares about. But think about it. Cold fermented pineapple drinks? Nothing could be more ready for a gourmet intervention. Served up with the house’s artful tostadas, you’re in for a powerful punch right in the kisser. With an optional dash of a very deep mezcal, Moxie’s tepache is breathing new life into the onetime refuge of some very down-on-their-luck booze hounds. Today, it’s turning even Condesa’s snootiest noses. Read more on the food here.
Address: Calle Michoacan No 78. Hippodrome Condesa
Tel. 55 5211 5561
Hours: Sunday to Wednesday 13:00 to 00:00 hrs. / Thursday to Saturday 13:00 to 1:00 hrs.
La Nuclear – Pulque in Roma Norte
Most internationals learn about pulque on the highway to the pyramids where hand-painted clapboards have beckoned motorists for decades. But the pulquerias in the city cater to younger people seeking lighter, fruitier concotions, with less angst than beer and none of the commitment of a hard night out. Pulquerias do happy hours. And one of the finest is La Nuclear in Roma Norte. Even late, the pulque is refreshing and a few other things can go along with your foamy choice.
Address: Querétaro 96, Cuauhtemoc, Roma Norte
Tel. 5574 5367
Cafeelería – Pozol in Coyoacán
Chiapas inspires a lot of food, drink and spirit. Even all over Mexico. Cafeleería is essentially a cafe, but the emphasis is on a pozol drink made of cooked maíz, cacao, and with a bit of sugar and cinnamon. Much more common inside Chiapas than out, it’s a pretty emotional drink for lots of people from there and it’s not exported nearly as widely as some other famous things from Chiapas like sugar and coffee. For the rest of us, pozol is not at all out of place between the coffee and tea also on the menu, and bears some resemblance to the atole served in many other parts of the country. And frankly, the coffee is very good too.
Address: Av Taxqueña # 1832 Local B, Coyoacan.
Tel. 55 5646 5228
Hours: Monday to Saturday 9:00 to 21:30 hrs.
Juarez’s red hot night scene gets an agave boost at Xaman. Lots of gnarly mixed-up drinks include agave syrup and the goal seems to be for something like a melding of Tequila and Mezcal with a trancendental burst of lime. These guys play hard with the high-balls and many of them are unforgettable. With a full bar, there’s also nightly DJs and plenty of drinks that you won’t swill anywhere else.
Address: Copenhagen 6 Col. Juarez.
Hours: Tuesday to Saturday 18:00 to 2:00 pm
Phone: 5511 0396
Ayuntamiento 141 – Yolixpa in Centro Historico
Some of the best places are always named for their addresses right? 141 has excellent food: pambazos, tlayudas, and huaxontle. But less well know is the Publa mountain drink called yolixpa – mixed up from 32 native mountain herbs and considered the “drink of the gods.” The concoction has medical origins and is generally mixed up and drunk to combat the cold. Like those Chiapas drinks above, this one is rare outside of some remote parts of Puebla, and drinking it ought to make you feel like a god. The bar is rounded out with a pretty astounding selection of mezcals and tequilas.
Address: Auntamiento 141, col. Center
Phone: 55 4632 0211
Mano Santa – Mezcal in Roma Norte
One the best of Roma Norte’s mezcalerías, Mano Santa serves just 100% original, mezcal from Matatlán, deep in the state of Oaxaca. Many believe these are the finest mezcals, but you need to stop in and taste a few to judge for yourself. There’s also a very full bar, and while the atmosphere feels very “drink heavy” it’s still one of the more light-hearted mezcalerias, with lots of wine and beer on offer too.
Address: 219 D Insurgentes, Col. Roma, CDMX
Tel: 5587 1715
Las Duelistas – Pulque in Centro Historico
Trendy as it is, this place has been trendy and not trendy off and on for 104 years. Think about that when you tell someone that pulque is new. and trendy. The photo above shows it’s been redecorated – but then folks come for the pulque. And come they do. Pulque is celebrated and mixed in a dozen different variations. And just off some of Centro’s busiest market streets, it’s a welcome releif from shopping, and eating and touring.
Address: Aranda 28, Col Centro, Mexico City 06000, Mexico, DF
Mexico City is vibrant, vast and very important. Not just in terms of the space it occupies and the stone and brick from it’s made from, but Mexico City greeted more than 30 million visitors last year. That’s more than it’s entire metro-population (though not by much). Let’s look at why they came.
Last year, at about this time, The New York Times had named the city the number one travel destination for 2016. Tourism searches on Google showed Mexico City as not just a Latin American Favorite, but in the top five tourist searches in the world. And of course, people have been asking for the last several years if it wasn’t the Next Paris, or the Next New York or the Next SOMETHING.
The City government set itself to the task of figuring out just why people love coming here. These are the top 15 reasons they came up with, and ultimately they’re the reasons that Mexico City is Latin America’s favorite, and maybe your favorite too!
1) 185 museums, nine archaeological sites and four World Heritage sites? The cultural scene is enormous, rich and varied. There’s something for every kind of cultural traveler.
2) Fairs, festivals, conventions, meetings and extravaganzas cover music, food, movies, books, and trade in every kind of human activity, down to the annual clown convention.
3) Blockbuster events? Last year saw a Formula 1 race, an NFL game or two, the Tour de France, and a free Roger Waters concert in the city center.
4) Chosen for the sixth world C40 Mayors Summit in November of 2016, Mexico City is widely perceived as a world leader in combatting climate change.
5) The Metrobús system, originally based on one running in Bogota, Colombia, is now the biggest in Latin America. Stretching some 125 kms today, in 2017 no less than 90 Alexander Dennis Enviro500 double-decker buses will begin plying the length of Paseo de la Reforma, as Metrobus Line 7 officially opens.
6. The tourist program Sonrisas por tu ciudad, literally “Smiles for your city,” organized by the Secretary for Tourism, has benefited more than 200,000 people.
7. Mexico City’s Central de Abasto (pictured below), after more than 30 years sells 30,000 tons of merchandise (mostly food) and sells to about 30,000 people every day. It’s the largest shopping area in the world.
8. Mexico City was the first Latin American city to join the Rainbow Cities Network, which coordinates city-level actions to protect LGBTI citizens and residents.
9. Mexico City was chosen as the World Capital of Design for 2018, by the World Design Organization.
10. The Centro Histórico is the largest historical city center in Latin America, with 1,500 buildings designated as having historical, cultural, artistic or architectural value. That’s more than most tour guides can handle, but it’s also home the continent’s biggest Metropolitan Cathedral.
11. Mexico City’s first ever Day of the Dead parade was celebrated by more than 250,000 marchers, band members, onlookers and, yes, zombies.
12. The city’s El Médico en tu Casa program puts a “Doctor in Your Home.” It’s already recognized in America, Asia, and Europe, for bringing health services closer to people who can’t easily visit hospitals or clinics.
13. Mexico City also began the first Specialized Center for the Management of Diabetes anywhere in Latin America.
14. The Ecobici system (pictured below) is the biggest public bike system in Latin America, with 452 cycle stations and about 35 million trips made by 200,ooo riders every year.
15. And finally, the good old underground Metro network is the biggest in Latin America, too. With 12 lines 226 km in total length, about 5 million people ride it every day.
Source: CDMX government, with information from International CDMX and the 4th Governmental Report CDMX, 2016.
Casa Madero may have been the first winery in the Americas, founded way back in 1597, and way up in Coahuila. But Mexico’s predominant “beer culture” has always given wine producers something of a long shadow to grow up in. Aguascalientes, Querétaro, Guanajuato, Zacatecas and Chihuahua all produce respectable wines, but it’s been the environs of Ensenada (the Guadalupe Valley, the Santo Tomas Valley, and the Ojos Negros Valley) that have really busted the Mexican wine scene out onto international lists of “respectability.” Some parts Coahuila (the Valley Of Parras, and Cuatro Ciénagas in particular) still hold their own – but most wine enthusiasts agree, Baja’s got the wine to beat.
Mexico exports wine around the world. According to the Mexican Wine Council, about 400 brands of wine are currently being produced in the country, and these increasingly appear on the international lists as being wines to watch (and to taste). But those lists aren’t everything. Even the most sophisticated drinkers know today that plenty is coming each year from Mexican wineries that’s worth taking note of.
Yes, you can still find plenty of good Mexican vintages mixed in with the international offerings on the shelves at Liverpool. But the wine shops below are pretty active at pushing good wines, from Mexico, onto more Mexican tables.
Vinoteca has three locations in and around the city and carries a wide range of Mexican wines, and still more around the country. They do a fair internet trade in wines too, but stopping in lets you pick the brains of their knowledgeable staff.
La Contra, also with shops all over the country, is one of the city’s leading advocates for the Mexican wine industry. With a capital location in Roma, it’s an easy and relaxed place to pick up recommendations, or indeed, to sample some of the best bottles coming in.
Address: Álvaro Obregón 130, local # 10, Colonia Roma Norte
Telephone: 5564 0966
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Á de Acento offers a very well-regarded restaurant, but the gourmet shop offers plenty that’s pure Mexican and well worth a bottle or two. In fact, prices are very reasonable, but there’s also usually something special hidden away in the shelves that inquiring customers will be very pleased to find.
Another in the list of combo restaurant and gourmet shops, Amaya has made a big splash with their list of “vinos raros.” Far from weird, many of them are fabulous. They’re also generally available in the shop, no reservation necessary and many of the best are, in fact, domestically produced!
Don’t expect friendly service. La Europea is still trying to figure out in which decade they’re doing business. But for all the wood-boxed bacalao these people sling during the holidays, they’ve always got a ton of good wine, too. With a good number of branches in and around the city, calling them one of the best wine shops in Mexico might be a stretch, but they do a lot of business, and for that, they always offer a ton of good Mexican wines too.
Si Mon is run by the chefs at Broka Bistrot, practically next door. And the emphasis is on local, good, and even inspiring wines. One of the best things about shopping at a wine bar is after all, that there is usually a bottle open. And for that, including Si Mon in a list of the best wine shops is practically a given.
Main Photo Above: Aborigen Valle Seco, Petite Sirah, Mourvedre, Cabernet Sauvignon, Courtesy of La Contra