The Only Pulqueria in Town: Zenzontle Bar in Tijuana
by Jorge Guevara and Daniel Aguilar. Reprinted with permission of San Diego Red.
Before I tell you about this magical hideaway in Tijuana, let me ask you a question: Have you ever had pulque? Or better yet, do you even know what pulque is? Pulque is an alcoholic beverage with a thick consistency that has been brewed since pre-Hispanic times. Pulque, like tequila, comes from agave and maguey, but it does not look like any other beverage you have ever tasted before.
I had some doubts when I first heard of Zenzontle because in my experience pulque is something very characteristic of southern Mexico. There is nothing like it in the north, which is why I was really surprised when I visited Plaza Fiesta with the intention of enjoying a local home brew festival and found this pulqueria. A few years ago I was lucky enough to live in Mexico City, and I would often spend my afternoons in pulquerias. So I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to drink pulque again without having to travel.
Now normally when someone imagines a pulqueria, the first thing that comes to mind is a scene from a Mexican film made in the 1920s: a wooden cantina with a mariachi band playing in a room lit by gas lamps. Zenzontle Bar reinvents this concept completely. It evinces the essence of an authentically Mexican pulqueria, while also showcasing a contemporary sensibility that encompasses the decor, the drinks, and the music. According to one of the owners of Zenzontle, Gerardo Valenzuela, his version of the traditional drink is more commercial, at least in the sense that it’s enjoyable for those with inexperienced pulque palates.
Another characteristic of the pulque they sell at Zenzontle is that it’s “cured,” meaning it’s pulque with fruits (or vegetables in some cases) added to create specific flavors. The process of making pulque is a craft, which is why it is highly recommended that you exhibit an adventurous spirit and try something you will not be able to find anywhere else in Baja.
Zenzontle Bar is located at Plaza Fiesta in the Zona Rio area of Tijuana. It’s only a five minute drive from the border, so you owe it to yourselves to try this excellent authentic Mexican beverage. Odds are, you won’t regret it.
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