In recent years, mezcal has reached a much wider audience than ever before, extending beyond the borders of Mexico where it has been popular for a long time already. That said, there are many different styles of mezcal, and some of them remain fairly unknown to those who aren’t from the regions of Mexico where they are created.
Consider pechuga mezcal (or mezcal de pechuga). The process of making batches of this particular style is very unique when compared to the process used to create most of the mezcal a typical consumer may find in stores.
But, what exactly is pechuga mezcal? Keep reading to learn more. Whether you’re interested in trying pechuga mezcal for yourself one day, or you’re simply a mezcal enthusiast who wants to learn more about the history and culture surrounding the spirit, this brief overview will answer many of your questions.
Pechuga Mezcal: Everything You Need to Know
Creating pechuga mezcal
To understand what makes pechuga mezcal so unique, it’s first important to know a little bit about how mezcal is made in the first place.
While each mezcal producer may approach the creation of mezcal in their own way, in general, mezcal production begins with roasting the heart of the agave plant. Then, a producer will crush the heart into small pieces. They’ll use open vats to ferment it next.
Distillation begins after fermentation. At least two rounds of distillation is standard. However, to make pechuga mezcal, a third round of distillation is necessary.
That said, this third round of distillation includes an extra element that makes pechuga mezcal stand out from other varieties in a fascinating way.
The ‘special ingredient’ in pechuga mezcal
Most mezcaleros will add their own specially-selected blend of spices, fruits, herbs, and similar ingredients to a sill during the third round of distillation when creating pechuga mezcal. But, that’s not the most interesting way in which this type of mezcal distinguishes itself.
While distilling the mezcal a third time, a mezcalero will also hang a protein over the sill. It’s usually a piece of raw chicken or turkey breast.
Why this added step? According to tradition, the chicken or turkey will cook in the vapors of the mezcal during the distillation process. As this happens, the fat and juices from the meat drip down into the mezcal. This is said to result in a mezcal that has a distinctive flavor when compared to others.
(Tip: Don’t worry about the idea of getting sick from pechuga mezcal! While it’s understandable if you’re wary of drinking a beverage that was distilled beneath a piece of raw meat, the steam from the distillation process cooks the meat fully enough to kill any lingering bacteria.)
The pechuga mezcal tradition
Any mezcal enthusiast knows that mezcal is directly linked with the cultures and traditions of the regions in which it’s created. Pechuga mezcal is no exception.
Traditionally, pechuga mezcal has been created in small batches (although, as the next section of this article will explain, that’s changing to some degree). This is because pechuga mezcal was usually reserved for special occasions. For example, families might consume pechuga mezcal to celebrate a wedding or baptism.
Even the creation of a batch of pechuga mezcal could be a family event. If a mezcalero was creating a batch of pechuga mezcal to celebrate a special occasion, several of their own family members might join them when selecting and gathering the special ingredients to add to the sill.
Pechuga mezcal: Looking forward
Up until recently, only those from specific regions may have known what pechuga mezcal is. That said, it can be argued that up until recently, most of us didn’t even know what mezcal is in general.
Thus, just as mezcal has begun making its way to nations throughout the world, so too is pechuga mezcal starting to reach more fans of this spirit.
Some mezcal producers are actually attempting to bring pechuga mezcal to the masses by switching up the types of proteins used in the third distillation. Although chicken and turkey are traditional choices, mezcal producers are now appealing to other drinkers and cultures by, for example, using rabbit or ham.
A few mezcal experts also claim that, in many cases, the spices, herbs, and various other ingredients that are used during the third distillation tend to lend pechuga mezcal a flavor that drowns out any additional flavoring that the protein might lend the final batch. They argue that it might therefore be possible to market “vegan” brand of pechuga mezcal, although it’s likely some traditionalists might disagree with them.
(It’s worth noting that not everyone agrees that you can’t taste the protein in pechuga mezcal. Some have stated that pechuga mezcal has a savory quality that’s markedly different from that of other varieties.)
Either way, you don’t need to feel as though you’re disrespecting mezcal tradition if you choose to drink pechuga mezcal on days that don’t qualify as special occasions. These days, pechuga mezcal is fairly widely available at restaurants and bars in Mexico. If you want to try it yourself, you don’t need to wait for a day of celebration to do so.
That said, you might still want to adhere to certain drinking “rules” when tasting pechuga mezcal. Although you can enjoy mezcal in a cocktail, many drink it straight.
Experts recommend the same for pechuga mezcal. To drink pechuga mezcal properly, you should consume it straight without ice (ideally from a proper mezcal drinking vessel, a topic which this blog has covered in detail before), sipping it alongside a glass of water. Don’t take a shot of it, either! The goal when savoring any mezcal is to sip a small amount slowly to ensure you fully appreciate all the flavors and nuances.
Regardless, if you’re a mezcal fan, you owe it to yourself to seek out this variety. One sip will likely serve as yet another reminder that mezcal is a unique spirit. You can drink it for years, and still not discover every style that’s available.