4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Sip pulque, wait for wings to sprout from back

They say it’s the drink of the gods.

Maybe you'll think 2000 years of drinkers were wrong
Maybe you'll think 2000 years of drinkers were wrong

Long before Tecate roja and caguamas of Indio dominated Mexican bartops, Aztec priests, warriors, and sacrificial victims sipped a milky agave wine called pulque. Fabled among its acolytes as a wellspring of fertility and divine inspiration, pulque is now available at a small handful of bars in Tijuana and even fewer in San Diego.

Last time I checked, Ranas Mexico City Cuisine in Spring Valley and Aqui es Texcoco in Chula Vista still sourced their pulque from a can. Try it and see what you think about human sacrifice. Even fresh pulque is an acquired taste, to put it politely. The first sip generally hits like a mouthful of vomit. The second is just acrid. By the third swill, if you’ve stuck it out this far, you may detect the oatmeal or celery juice that serves as flavoring. If you’re into it at this point, great. Hold onto your butt and wait for Quetzalcoatl’s wings to sprout from your back as the ascorbic elixir works it magic.

“They say it’s the drink of the gods,” bartender Francisco tells me one quiet evening at Zenzontle Bar, located within Tijuana’s popular craft taproom village, Plaza Fiesta. Oaxacan art and clay tile flooring pose a homely contrast to the electronic music pulsing from neighboring clubs as Francisco pours samples of today’s tonics: coconut, tamarind, and vino tinto (red wine). “It can be as strong as 10 percent down south, but what I like is that it tells the story of Mexican culture. My family is from Chiapas, where you can still eat tamales de iguana with your pulque. It’s an ancient part of Mexican culture.”

Zenzontle sources their aguamiel, or agave sap wine, from Ensenada-grown maguey, the same plant that gives us tequila and mezcal. They mix the aguamiel with a variety of fruits and ferment it only briefly to achieve a smoother product that is friendlier to newcomers at around 2 to 4 percent alcohol. This is necessary in Tijuana, Francisco says, because many northerners are unfamiliar with the 2000-year-old beverage. The result is considerably less offensive than the pulque in bars you’ll find packed with university students down in Mexico City.

Feeling macho? Order your pulque “valiente” for an extra 50 pesos ($2.50) to get a shot of tequila in the mix. Zenzontle’s sister spot, Mezcaleria Trajinera, offers a variety of tequilas and mezcals straight up or in cocktails for about $4 each.

Zenzontle Bar

Paseo de los Heroes 10001, Plaza Fiesta, Tijuana

Directions: Uber to Plaza Fiesta or walk about 20 minutes from the border

Prices: Pulque, 35 pesos (about $1.75); beer, 30–35 pesos; cocktails, 80 pesos

Hours: Vary, but generally open afternoons and evenings

Food: Pizza, nachos, carne seca, and chapulines (crickets)

Capacity: Sits 15 inside, 25 outside

The Deal: TWO FOR ONE pulque curado (flavored) on Tuesdays

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Steve Peace's version of the French Laundry scandal

We get to pay Sheppard Mullin $200,000 for lobbying us
Next Article

How the lockdown has changed National City crime

Mask snitches, domestic violence, mental health calls up
Maybe you'll think 2000 years of drinkers were wrong
Maybe you'll think 2000 years of drinkers were wrong

Long before Tecate roja and caguamas of Indio dominated Mexican bartops, Aztec priests, warriors, and sacrificial victims sipped a milky agave wine called pulque. Fabled among its acolytes as a wellspring of fertility and divine inspiration, pulque is now available at a small handful of bars in Tijuana and even fewer in San Diego.

Last time I checked, Ranas Mexico City Cuisine in Spring Valley and Aqui es Texcoco in Chula Vista still sourced their pulque from a can. Try it and see what you think about human sacrifice. Even fresh pulque is an acquired taste, to put it politely. The first sip generally hits like a mouthful of vomit. The second is just acrid. By the third swill, if you’ve stuck it out this far, you may detect the oatmeal or celery juice that serves as flavoring. If you’re into it at this point, great. Hold onto your butt and wait for Quetzalcoatl’s wings to sprout from your back as the ascorbic elixir works it magic.

“They say it’s the drink of the gods,” bartender Francisco tells me one quiet evening at Zenzontle Bar, located within Tijuana’s popular craft taproom village, Plaza Fiesta. Oaxacan art and clay tile flooring pose a homely contrast to the electronic music pulsing from neighboring clubs as Francisco pours samples of today’s tonics: coconut, tamarind, and vino tinto (red wine). “It can be as strong as 10 percent down south, but what I like is that it tells the story of Mexican culture. My family is from Chiapas, where you can still eat tamales de iguana with your pulque. It’s an ancient part of Mexican culture.”

Zenzontle sources their aguamiel, or agave sap wine, from Ensenada-grown maguey, the same plant that gives us tequila and mezcal. They mix the aguamiel with a variety of fruits and ferment it only briefly to achieve a smoother product that is friendlier to newcomers at around 2 to 4 percent alcohol. This is necessary in Tijuana, Francisco says, because many northerners are unfamiliar with the 2000-year-old beverage. The result is considerably less offensive than the pulque in bars you’ll find packed with university students down in Mexico City.

Feeling macho? Order your pulque “valiente” for an extra 50 pesos ($2.50) to get a shot of tequila in the mix. Zenzontle’s sister spot, Mezcaleria Trajinera, offers a variety of tequilas and mezcals straight up or in cocktails for about $4 each.

Zenzontle Bar

Paseo de los Heroes 10001, Plaza Fiesta, Tijuana

Directions: Uber to Plaza Fiesta or walk about 20 minutes from the border

Prices: Pulque, 35 pesos (about $1.75); beer, 30–35 pesos; cocktails, 80 pesos

Hours: Vary, but generally open afternoons and evenings

Food: Pizza, nachos, carne seca, and chapulines (crickets)

Capacity: Sits 15 inside, 25 outside

The Deal: TWO FOR ONE pulque curado (flavored) on Tuesdays

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Going beyond banh mi at Banh Mi Hoi An

Terrific take-out options include a warming beef stew
Next Article

Sign of the times

“Even if you’re a hater, I’ll sit and talk with you. We can find some common ground.”
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close