Pechuga Mezcal or Mezcal de Pechuga is a unique style of mezcal that stands out due to its unconventional production process. The term “Pechuga” translates to “breast” in Spanish, a name that hints at the unusual ingredient used in its distillation: a raw turkey or chicken breast. This style of mezcal is traditionally made in small quantities, following closely guarded family recipes that have been passed down through generations.
The History and Traditional Use of Pechuga Mezcal
The history of Pechuga Mezcal goes back at least a century, with its origins deeply rooted in family traditions and local customs. It is typically produced during the harvest season, a time of celebration in many cultures around the world. In Mexico, Pechuga Mezcal is traditionally consumed during special occasions such as weddings, baptisms, and quinceañeras. The production of this spirit is a family affair, with everyone participating in the collection of seasonal ingredients for the celebratory Pechuga.
The Unique Production Process of Mezcal de Pechuga
The production process of Pechuga Mezcal involves several steps, diverging from all other types of mezcal from step 7:
1. Harvesting the Agave: The process starts with the harvesting of the heart of the agave plant, known as the piña.
2. Roasting the Agave: The piñas are then cut into pieces and roasted in an earthen pit. This imparts the mezcal with its characteristic smoky flavor.
3. Crushing the Agave: The roasted agave is crushed into small pieces, traditionally using a stone wheel known as a tahona.
4. Fermentation: The crushed agave is placed in open vats, where it ferments naturally over several days.
5. First Distillation: The fermented agave juice, or mosto, is distilled in clay or copper stills. This results in a distillate known as ordinario.
6. Second Distillation: The ordinario is distilled a second time. This is where the process starts to diverge from the standard mezcal production.
7. Adding “Special Ingredients”: During the third distillation, a basket of local fruit, nuts, and herbs is added to the distillate in the pot-still. This is also when the raw turkey or chicken breast is hung over the still. This is the only mezcal expression that has a third distillation and in which these kinds of ingredients are added.
8. Third Distillation: As the mezcal distills, the vapors pass through the basket and the meat, absorbing the flavors of the ingredients. The poultry “cooks” in the distilling vapors, releasing proteins and other substances that contribute to the final product’s unique flavor and texture.
9. Final Product: The result is Mezcal de Pechuga, a spirit with a richer, silky, almost oily texture, and a complex flavor profile that reflects the unique combination of ingredients used in its production.
This process reflects ancient traditions and is typically carried out before significant celebrations such as newborn baby arrivals, quinceañeras, weddings, or funerals. Each step contributes to the unique and complex flavor profile of Pechuga Mezcal, making it a truly special spirit.
The Ingredients Used in Mezcal de Pechuga
The ingredients used in the production of Pechuga Mezcal can vary greatly, depending on the family recipe. The two elements are the animal protein (usually chicken or turkey) and a basket of different natural ingredients.
Common recipes include local seasonal fruit like quince, plantain, plum, guava, wild apples and wild pineapple, along with herbs, spices, and nuts. Some producers even experiment with less common proteins like rabbit, venison, or pig. There are also vegan versions of Pechuga Mezcal, which eschew the use of meat and instead highlight other harvest ingredients.
The Taste of Pechuga Mezcal
Pechuga Mezcal is known for its complex and nuanced flavors. The addition of fruits, herbs, spices, and nuts during the final distillation imparts an extra layer of sweetness, helping to balance out the smoky, earthy, and roasted flavors of the agave. The suspended protein, whether it be chicken, turkey, or another type of meat, is said to add a certain richness and body to the spirit. However, the specific flavor profile of a Pechuga Mezcal can vary greatly depending on the specific ingredients used in its production.
Pechuga Mezcal is a unique and intriguing spirit that offers a window into the rich traditions and customs of Mexican culture. Whether you’re a seasoned mezcal aficionado or a curious newcomer, Pechuga Mezcal is sure to provide a fascinating and delicious tasting experience.
Which pechuga mezcal should you buy?
Many mezcal brands offer pechuga mezcal, so it might be difficult to find the best ones. After trying many of them, we can recommend the expressions from El Jolgorio (also their special Navideña), Tosba, Montelobos, Real Minero and Del Maguey. Of course there are many others, but with these examples, you can’t really go wrong.