It is the weekend, so time for some Mexican culture. Here is another installment from the Matador Network, about life in Mexico. I have tried a lot of these beverages here in Mahahual and Caldaritas.
Man in a pulqueria in Mexico City. Photo by Laura Bernhein.
The “poliuhqui”, “broken” in Nahuatl, is a very nutritious drink. It’s high in protein and vitamins and minerals such as C, B1, B2, riboflavin, thiamine, niacin and folic acid. But what makes it so special is that it’s also an alcoholic beverage, obtained by the fermentation of “aguamiel” which is the sugary sap of some species of agaves.
Pulque existed before the arrival of Europeans to the current Mexican territory, and its use was reserved for soldiers and elderly people. During colonial times, however, people stopped drinking it, mostly because of the bad reputation given to it by beer companies that saw in pulque one of their biggest competitors.
If you haven’t tried it yet, I suggest you to do it after it’s freshly made in the morning, when it has very little alcohol content. As the hours pass, it increases their bittersweet taste and its level of alcohol.
Another prehispanic drink called “pozzoli” by the Nahuas and “Pochol” by the Mayans. It’s prepared by fermenting corn inside banana leaves, diluted in salted water to which are added dried chilies, honey and sometimes ground cocoa. It is consumed as an energy drink during working hours, as well as to quench the thirst. It also mitigates hunger. You can drink it or eat it. Yes, you can make dumplings with pozol and consume it in its dehydrated form.
Atole is, without a doubt, the most popular drink among us. Before the arrival of the Europeans, it was prepared only with corn and water sweetened with brown sugar.
Currently, it is consumed throughout Mexico and there are many flavors and variations, depending on the region you visit. One can find atole de leche (milk) with strawberry, vanilla or caramel. Or atole de cenizas (ashes), typical of Michoacan, which is prepared with the ashes of a pine tree. There is alsochampurrado, which is an atole with chocolate. The variation with corn is calledchileatole. Atole is consumed on a daily basis, accompanied by sweet bread for breakfast or dinner.
Its name comes from the Nahuatl “tepiatl”, which means “corn drink”. Originally made with this cereal, the current and most popular version of it is made with pineapple, whose juice and pulp are left to ferment for at least a week. After this period, water, lemon, chili powder, and ice are added and they make one of our favorite drinks, famous for its unique sweet-sour flavor.
“Tecuin” in Nahuatl, it means “heartbeat”. It’s consumed mainly in the little villages of the Western Sierra Madre mountains. The preparation consists of letting germinated, grounded and boiled corn ferment in a special clay pot for 24 hours.
The native people rarámuris add a spike called basia`wi to it, which increases the level of alcohol. Another variation of this drink is prepared with cornstalk. It has a stronger flavor, and often people add agave, pineapples, hikuri (peyote) and other flowers or herbs to flavor it.
The Nahua knew it as “nochtli”, which means “nopal liqueur”. The colonche is a drink obtained by fermenting the juice of red tunas, the fruits of the nopal cactus.
Lately it’s gaining popularity, but it can only be drank a few days a year during the rainy season, when there are more prickly pears. After a few hours of fermentation, the colonche flavor is sweet and gaseous and its alcohol content is very low.
It’s obtained by fermenting the stem sap of several species of palm, coconut mainly. First it has a brownish color, but as ferments it becomes white. Its flavor is somewhat sweet and its consistency is viscous. Similar drinks are consumed in other parts of the world, as in Ghana, Malaysia, South Africa and the Philippines.
It’s made from fermented cacao seeds, mamey bones and cocoa flowers (which is called rosita, little rose). All ingredients are mixed with cold water until they become a paste. It is a very popular drink in Oaxaca and its name in Nahuatl istexatl ,which means “floured water.” I warn you: Many consider it an aphrodisiac drink…
9. AGUAS FRESCAS
They are the most traditional drinks here in Mexico. These fresh waters are made by blending fruits, flowers or seeds with water, then draining them and adding sugar or honey to taste.
From Mexico to the world, this is “the drink of the gods”! Its name comes from the Nahuatl “xocolatl” and its original preparation consists of milling and baking cocoa beans, then adding corn and honey, and everything is blended by hand in a small mill until the mixture becomes foamy.
Many people today still prepare it this way, but it’s becoming a lost art. The best place to drink chocolate the traditional way is in the South of the country.