What is the world coming to? Just the other day, I heard that the legendary pulque bars of Mexico are closing down. Seems that most everyone wants to drink beer instead. Now, my thoughts on beer are well known – most acceptable while the sun is shining, but not the drink to take you into the heart of the night with decorum. Too much time reading those crappy ads they stick above urinals these days.
It does make some sense that the pulque bars are taking it in the teeth. So many of the world’s ancient and noble drinks are dying out, swamped by the wave of new fashion drinks and the pools of beer it leaves behind. What happened to mead? What happened to gira-kvass, the Lithuanian tipple? And what about lamb’s-wool, a drink made from mulled ale with added spices, sugar and the pulp of roasted apples? It is a minor miracle that absinthe has made something of a comeback, though I am assured by an artist friend of mine that the hallucinations are nothing like the real thing.
Pretty soon the most exotic drink that we are going to have is a gin and tonic, god forbid. Other Brit-cool drinks like the Pimm’s cocktail are pretty much gone. As for the more continental drinks, I always get strange looks when I order my Campari and soda or my Pernod and water. I think many bars still stock the bottles only for their decorative value and the way they make the place look sophisticated.
Anyway, back to the pulque. If you have never tried it, this ancient drink (it goes back 2000 years at least) tastes pretty good but its texture is something like saliva. Doesn’t smell too good either, but when last did you take a whiff of Red Bull? It’s the fermented sap of the agave plant, and if you had to distil it, you would end up with tequila.
Pulque quickly gained a legendary reputation in those early days, the old Mexicans reckoned that the gods, especially the rabbit gods, really liked the stuff and from then on the scale of your pulque inebriation was measured in numbers of rabbits, with a 400-rabbiter the ultimate.
I say let’s celebrate the old artisan drinks. It will be a sad day when only the same drinks are found in every bar in the world. In that spirit, I’m off to get rabbit-faced on mampoer.
A RECIPE FOR BREAD KVASS (Duonos gira)
1/2 kg dried, black rye bread
5 litre water
20g (4 teaspoons) yeast
1 cup raisins
Cover bread with boiling water and let sit for 24 hours. Strain, add yeast blended with sugar, and remaining sugar, mix well and let ferment for 1-2 days in a warm spot.
Pour fermented liquid into glass bottles, add several raisins to each bottle and close tightly. Store in a cool place. Kvass is ready to drink the next day. It will be drinkable for up to 2 months, if kept in a cold spot.