Raicilla: The Mexican Moonshine

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TLDR

Moonshine is the common term for illegally distilled alcoholic beverages. In this article, we discuss raicilla as a Mexican Moonshine. We cover its history and production. We then go ahead to talk about the all-famous Mexican moonshine.

Introduction

Are you craving to bend the law a bit to please your taste buds? This Mexican Moonshine from the state of Jalisco will see you go to cloud nine and back if you use it wisely.

Moonshine is a common term used for distilled alcoholic beverages made all over the world. These beverages are made with indigenous ingredients that reflect the tastes, customs, and raw materials used to to create them.

The term mostly relates to small-scale production that is often illegal or strictly regulated.

Moonshine Bottle With Shots

Raicilla, the Mexican Moonshine

Story Behind the Name

When moving along the Puerto Vallarta roadside, it is common to find vendors selling a moonshine mezcal called raicilla. It got its name back in the days to escape the restrictions on alcohol production and high taxes.

The name acted as a disguise to make it seem like a type of mezcal. Sales were made on the streets in little palapas on the mountainsides at the edge of town. It was packed in a secure top coke bottle or recyclable container.

The flavour of the beverage tends to be on the raw side. Behind this unique flavor is a peculiar aftertaste that is sure to interest your tastebuds and leave you wanting more.

Finding the best raicilla is not easy, but you will be able to get some with a deep search in Destiladora del Real in the mountains above. You’ll get a more modern raicilla of high quality made by experienced distillers.

History of the Mexican Moonshine

It was only in recent years that manufacturers were allowed to make raicilla as a legitimate product. The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fishing, and Food has estimated that the annual sales of raicilla adds up to about 100,00 bottles and are mostly sold in restaurants and craft shops.

Raicillas are slightly sweet but with a harsh flavor. It is also clear with a faint brown tinge with varying qualities. You can consume it straight, with lime or salt, on the rocks or mix it with grapefruit soda. Unlike the popular myth, raicilla does not contain any hallucinogenic properties.

To celebrate raicilla, Mascota has hosted the annual Raicilla Cultural Festival for the last five years. The event features tours, tastings, and lectures on how raicilla is produced, including its history. There's also dancing!

Mexican Moonshine in Bottle

Popular Producers of Mexican Moonshine

Raicilla is produced in Elzatlan, Guachinango, Atenguillo, Mascota, Talpa, and Hostotipaquillo. This part of western Jalisco has all the perfect conditions for agaves to flourish. The reddish-brown soils, rain, and sun support the growth of a different agave called agave maximiliana.

Perhaps one of the best-known distillers of raicilla is Destellador del Real based in Cimarron de la Raicilla. They combine the traditional production techniques with modern technology to come up with a more refined raicilla, with an ABV of 36%.

In 1997, the actual owner of raicilla, Jorge, secured the collective “Raicilla Jalisco” as a mark to protect production and established the Mexican Council of Raicilla Promoters. To produce raicilla, all producers must be members of the council, and currently, they are around 70 members.

The Raicilla Jalisco mark regulates the production to guarantee a quality product and makes the first step towards preserving the designation of origin.

Raicilla Bottles

The Production Process of Raicilla

Harvesting

The agave matures as it puts up a flowering stalk. The stalk is cut off so that all of the plant’s sugars go to the heart.  The plant matures by the 8th and 10th year, and the jimadores harvest them.

They cut out the spiny outer leaves with long, handheld knives.The centre of the  plant looks like a pineapple and is called a piña. The piñas weigh about one hundred pounds and are taken to the taberna from the fields where the raicilla is processed.

All of these steps are done by hand.

Cooking and Crushing

The piñas are put in large brick ovens with fire and are cooked for 24 hours. After cooking, they are chopped into chunks using machetes and turned into a pulp after thorough beating. Large wooden mallets hit them in wooden trays known as batea.

Fermentation

After crushing, the agave is put in wooden vats that have copper bottoms or drums. It then ferments with natural plant yeast for about seven to nine days.

Distillation

When fermentation is complete, the vat is capped and sealed with adobe mud. The cap is connected to a copper distillation coil, and the vat is heated.

After eight hours of distilling, the result is a high-quality distillate of 100% natural Raicilla. It is known as La Punta or Las Raicillas del Ral. 

Agave for Raicilla Production

How Unique Is It?

If you want to appreciate all the effort into making boutique Raicilla, take note that it requires 15 pounds of agave to produce a single liter of Raicilla, and apparently, just 50 liters of distillate is collected every 24 hours.

As part of the tradition, the first few drops of distillate are released to the air, and if it evaporates before landing, the brew is considered good.

Raicilla can be consumed in a Caballito or tequila shot glass, but it is often served in a wine glass after some chilling, over the rocks, or with some type of grapefruit soda or fruit juice.

Are You Up To The Challenge?

Now that we know about Mexican moonshine, are you up to the challenge?

Moonshine used to be illegal to make, but with time it finally got the recognition it deserved. Right now, it’s possible to buy some commercially produced moonshine.

Even so, there are still a lot of homemade moonshines made by adventurous people. Depending on your preference, you can try any of the popular blue agave spirits.

There are a wide variety of moonshines from various regions and all with an interesting story behind—Marvel in the history of Mexican moonshine the next time you grab a drink.

If you like raicilla, then you'll most propably want to check out our articles on Cuishe and Sotol. You'll love those too!

And remember, when you try raicilla it's a great idea to have an authentic Mexican shot glass, or enjoy it as part of a long drink in a cocktail glass. As always, don't forget to garnish it to get the most from your drink!


1 comment


  • Don Quiote

    Harsh taste? You also seem to forget about all the Coastal raicilla. I would suggest consulting with someone who knows something about raicilla and doing a thorough re-write.


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