Hipsters In Mexico City Revive Ancient Fermented Drink

Dec 28, 2016
Originally published on December 28, 2016 7:50 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

New Year's Eve is just around the corner, and we've been talking this week to bartenders around the world who've been offering special toasts for the New Year. Today, we head to Mexico City to hear about the ancient drink pulque. NPR's Carrie Kahn shares a New Year's toast with one of the drink's best known servers.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: It's 4 o'clock on a weekday afternoon, and it's packed at Las Duelistas in downtown Mexico City - so noisy I interview owner and head pulque server Arturo Garrido Aldana outside the swinging cantina doors.

ARTURO GARRIDO ALDANA: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "The weekends are way worse," says Garrido. He's the fourth owner of Las Duelistas, which opened its doors 104 years ago, during the Mexican Revolution.

ALDANA: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "Listen, we are a Mexican tradition," says Garrido. Pulque is made of agave juice, just like tequila, but it's fermented and has to be imbibed shortly after brew.

ALDANA: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "Pulque gets you relaxed," he says. With a similar taste but lower alcohol content than beer, Garrido says you don't really get drunk, just happy. That's something all Mexicans can enjoy. 2016 has been a tough year for many, with the peso plunging, violence rising and the threatened sanctions looming from incoming U.S. president, Donald Trump.

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KAHN: Inside the pulqueria, every wall, post and doorjamb is painted with bright Aztec designs. It's packed with tattooed and pierced 20-somethings. Garrido says the pulque tradition was fading out but is now enjoying a youthful recovery.

ALDANA: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "The are guarantying pulque many more years of life," he says. Garrido sells many flavored pulques. For New Year's, he's adding tejocote, a fruit akin to a crabapple and a seasonal favorite. For a toast, he wishes everyone the best for the New Year.

ALDANA: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "Let it begin with pulque and end with pulque," he says. "That's all anyone needs to be happy."

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Singing in Spanish).

KAHN: Due to its limited shelf life, pulque can't be bottled or exported, so you'll have to come to Mexico City to try it. And at less than 2 bucks a pint, it's hard to beat. Salud and feliz ano nuevo. Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Mexico City.

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MARTIN: People do all kinds of traditions to welcome the New Year, like the one you just heard - a toast with a Mexican fermented drink - to eating 12 grapes at midnight. That's what they do in Spain. For those looking for an amorous year, apparently donning red underwear is the thing to do. That's what David Greene does on New Year's Eve. We want to know what you do to usher in a new year of good fortune. Record your rituals in a voice memo and email to nprcrowdsource@npr.org with the subject line, good luck. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.