It’s no secret how popular tequila has become in the U.S., and with mezcal quickly gaining traction behind it, it’s safe to say that the interest in agave spirits has never been stronger. But as the category continues to open up to Americans, one specific variation of mezcal has remained fairly unexplored.
Pechuga mezcal is quietly being explored by curious agave drinkers stateside, bringing with it an assortment of questions — one in particular around practices of vegan and vegetarianism. To learn more about pechuga mezcals, VinePair chatted with Ivy Mix, bartender and owner of pan-Latin-inspired cocktail bar Leyenda, to learn more about this mystifying agave spirit.
A long-time admirer of Latin America since her bartending days in Guatemala, Mix literally wrote the book on the region’s cocktail culture. In it, she explains the significance behind the unique spirit. “Pechuga mezcal has long been revered in agave-spirits lore as one of the most special mezcals of all, reserved for occasions and fiestas,” she says.
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Mix explains that the small-production spirit is traditionally made with seasonal produce such as fruits, herbs, and spices. As one can imagine, these additions impart extra flavors into the smoky spirit, but what really makes pechuga mezcal unique is the inclusion of meat.
“In Spanish, the word ‘pechuga’ means breast, and the distillation process of pechuga mezcal incorporates some kind of poultry, which is hung within the still,” Mix says. Allowing the vapors to pass over the meat during distillation further adds to the intense flavors of this mezcal. The method can leave some drinkers to wonder whether or not the spirit can be considered vegan.
As Mix notes, traditional pechuga mezcal is not considered vegetarian or vegan. “Customarily made with the essence of some type of animal meat, pechugas are not vegan, but there are some new takes on them that are vegan-friendly,” she says.
For vegetarians or vegans who are looking to enjoy this complex style of mezcal, Mix recommends variations using veggies like Vago Elote. “I love this one in particular because it offers a new, and delicious, take on a traditional beverage,” she says.