How is mezcal de pechuga made?

Answered by John Watkins

de pechuga, also known as pechuga mezcal, is a unique and intriguing spirit that is made in a rather unconventional way. It is a traditional Mexican spirit that is deeply rooted in cultural and culinary traditions. The process of making mezcal de pechuga involves suspending a raw chicken or turkey breast in the still during the second distillation, allowing it to cook in the rising steam and infuse the mezcal with its flavors.

1. Distillation Process:
To understand how mezcal de pechuga is made, we must first understand the general distillation process of mezcal. Mezcal is a distilled alcoholic that is made from the agave plant. The heart of the agave plant, known as the piña, is harvested, roasted, crushed, and fermented to produce a raw spirit. This raw spirit is then distilled to purify and concentrate the flavors.

2. Traditional Method:
The traditional method of making mezcal de pechuga involves adding unique ingredients to the spirit during the second distillation. These ingredients typically include fruits, spices, and sometimes even nuts. The choice of ingredients can vary depending on the region and personal preferences of the mezcalero (distiller). Some common ingredients used in the pechuga process include apples, pears, cinnamon, cloves, almonds, and more.

3. Pechuga Ingredient:
The star ingredient in mezcal de pechuga is, of course, the raw chicken or turkey breast. The choice between chicken or turkey is subjective and can vary depending on the mezcalero's preference and local traditions. The poultry is carefully selected to ensure its quality and freshness, as it will be cooked in the rising steam during the distillation process.

4. Cooking in Steam:
During the second distillation, the raw chicken or turkey breast is hung above the still, allowing it to be cooked by the rising steam. As the spirit vaporizes and rises through the still, it passes by the meat, gently cooking it and infusing the mezcal with its flavors. The steam carries the juices and fat from the poultry, adding a unique depth and complexity to the final product.

5. Flavor Infusion:
The cooking process imparts both subtle and distinct flavors to the mezcal. The poultry's juices and fat mix with the spirit, creating a rich and savory profile. The fruit, spices, and nuts added during the second distillation further contribute to the flavor infusion, adding layers of complexity to the mezcal de pechuga. The end result is a spirit that showcases a harmonious blend of smoky, fruity, spicy, and meaty characteristics.

6. Artisanal Craftsmanship:
Making mezcal de pechuga is a labor-intensive process that requires skill, patience, and expertise. It is often produced by small-scale producers who adhere to traditional methods passed down through generations. Each mezcalero has their own unique recipe and technique, resulting in a wide range of flavors and styles among different pechuga mezcals.

Mezcal de pechuga is a truly unique and fascinating spirit that goes beyond the boundaries of conventional distillation. The process of suspending a raw chicken or turkey breast in the still during the second distillation adds a distinct flavor profile and cultural significance to the mezcal. It is a testament to the creativity and craftsmanship of the mezcaleros, who continue to preserve and innovate within the world of mezcal production.