Pechuga Mezcal: Exploring the Savory and Complex World of Distilled Meat and Seasonal Ingredients
Mezcal lovers, brace yourselves: we're diving deep into the world of pechuga mezcal. But what exactly is pechuga mezcal, you might ask? Pechuga mezcal is a type of mezcal that is distilled with something other than just fermented agave. It's called a "destilado con" in Spanish, which translates to "distilled with."
Typically, pechuga mezcal is distilled twice before ingredients are added for a third distillation. The process and ingredients used vary depending on the region in which the mezcal is being made. Often, a maestro mezcalero will hang a chicken breast with wire in the still during this final distillation. But it's not just chicken that's used in pechuga mezcal. Seasonal fruits, vegetables, and herbs are also used, and sometimes thrown directly into the still or sifted through cheesecloth.
The history of pechuga mezcal is somewhat of a mystery, but it's believed to date back several generations and to have originated in Oaxaca. Alvin Starkman of Mezcal Educational Tours in Oaxaca was able to trace the tradition of pechuga mezcal back to the 1930s through an oral history from a local in Santiago Matatlán. He notes that variations of pechuga, which employ a meat protein, continue to be served today at many rite of passage celebrations in Oaxaca.
When it comes to meats used in pechuga mezcal, the possibilities are endless. Pechuga literally translates to "breast" in Spanish, and historically, people have used all kinds of meats including chicken, turkey, deer, lamb, rabbit, iguana, and even lobster. Of all the pechugas that have been tried, deer pechuga and traditional pechuga are two favorites, as well as a lobster pechuga mezcal created by Starkman himself.
While traditionally pechuga mezcal is made with meat, it's not a requirement. In recent years, more and more maestro mezcaleros have been experimenting with making pechuga mezcal using only fruits, vegetables, and herbs. These vegan pechuga mezcals are becoming increasingly popular as the agave spirits category expands.
So, what does pechuga mezcal taste like? Well, the main flavor note that stands out when compared to non-pechuga mezcal is the umami flavor. This is from the meat that is introduced during distillation. Expect a savory, decadent, sometimes even gamey or wild taste, but do not expect the flavor to be overwhelmingly strong. It's more like a subtle addition rather than a flavor punch.
If you're interested in trying pechuga mezcal for yourself, know that you can expect a unique, delicious, and complex flavor experience. And with more and more maestro mezcaleros pushing the boundaries of traditional mezcals, the options are endless. So go out, explore, and find your new favorite pechuga mezcal. Cheers!
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