Pulque, an aboriginal Mexican name for the fermented juice of agave Americana, the American aloe, maguey, or. century plant (see Agave), which is cultivated in southern Mexico, as well as in Central and South America, for this and other products. The plant cannot; be utilized for pulque until it has completed its growth and is about to flower, a time which varies with the soil and location from 5 to 15 years. The sap stored up in the long and very fleshy leaves for the rapid development of the flower stalk abounds in sugar and mucilage. As soon as there are indications of the shooting up of a flower stalk from the centre of the plant, the central leaves and forming bud are cut out, a cavity being formed in their place, into which the sap will flow; the cavity is shaded by drawing over some of the outer leaves and tying their points. A vigorous plant will yield about two gallons a day for four or five months; as it quickly ferments, the juice is gathered from the plant three times a day in earthen jars, which are emptied into reservoirs made of raw hide tacked to a wooden frame. A portion of the juice is disposed of as pulque, i. e., simply fermented, while the greater part is distilled to form a strong alcoholic liquor, called pulque brandy, aguardiente, mescal, and by other names.
Pulque is a favorite drink with the Mexicans, and in the towns is sold in the market places and at shops called pulquerias, where the strong liquor is also kept. Taken in an early stage of fermentation, when the liquid is brisk with the bubbles of carbonic acid that are given off, pulque is a pleasant drink, not unlike spruce beer; but if allowed to complete its fermentation, which it does in three or four days, and reach the condition in which Mexicans like it best, no uneducated stomach can tolerate it; it contracts the odor of putrid animal matter from the skin in which it is fermented, and is exceedingly repulsive. Among the Mexicans the pulque from certain localities or plantations is especially esteemed, as among Europeans preference is given to the wine of certain vineyards. When the flow of sap ceases, the plant dies, but not without having formed innumerable offsets by means of which the plantation may be renewed.