Entertainment

La Familia Hard Ciders Is Giving Our Favorite Agua Fresca Flavors A Boozy Twist

Growing up in a Mexican or Mexican-American family, you probably tasted the sweetness of jamaica in an agua fresca. You’ve also experienced the salty notes of tamarindo when you wanted to have a refreshing drink. Now those nostalgic flavors of your childhood are growing up with the help of La Familia Hard Cider.

Family-owned La Familia is giving people a delicious and boozy taste of our favorite agua fresca flavors.

Photo courtesy of La Familia

La Familia bills itself as the first jamaica and tamarindo ciders in Oregon, and was named the first Latino-owned cider company in Oregon by several cider and craft brewery outlets in Oregon. It might even be one of the only Latino-owned cider producers in the country!

The Oregon-based company is a craft cider brewery started by Mexican-Americans Jose Gonzalez and his wife Shani, along with his two children, JJ, 24, and Jazelle, 22.

Photo courtesy of La Familia

A couple of years ago, after joining his wife on a mini tour of some taquerias, a thought popped into Gonzalez’s head and started brewing. Jose thought up the novel idea of bringing agua frescas into the craft brewery scene.

“[I told my wife], wouldn’t it be great if someone offered ciders with agua fresca,” Jose says.

“We never made a hard cider and believed we could,” he says of how his business idea started to take shape.

Jose was serious about making his agua fresca cider company and sought out the expertise of one of Oregon’s top cider makers to turn his mother’s agua fresca recipes into a bubbly brew.

Once the recipe was perfected, it came to settling on a name for the company, and the family looks inward to their family roots and recipes.

The company officially launched on Cinco de Mayo weekend in 2017 and recently celebrated its two-year anniversary by launching its ciders in a new 12-oz can.

“When La Familia came out, we kept thinking about our family, how we’re doing it for family—let’s just call it ‘la familia.’ The name comes with lots of responsibility,” Jazelle says.

The flavors of ciders the company makes include jamaica, tamarindo, manzana, and their seasonal best seller—guayaba. La Familia’s jamaica cider has won two medals in cider competitions so far.

Each family member has favorite flavor: Jazelle’s is tamarindo, JJ’s is jamaica, and Jose loves the guayaba flavor.

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Jose prides himself on using natural ingredients to make all the ciders. He says the recipes include fresh 100 percent apple juice, along with hibiscus leaves for the jamaica cider, tamarind paste for the tamarindo flavor and fresh guava for the guayaba seasonal cider. He says the hardest part at first was getting all the ingredients to Oregon.

“The first challenge was finding the ingredients bc they weren’t commercially available locally. All [the ingredients] come from Mexico, and we found a distributor in California,” Jose says.

Jose adds that the ciders contain no artificial flavors, just some “cane sugar to balance it out a little bit.”

Jose is currently working on opening a tap room in Salem, Oregon and getting more distributors to stock his family’s ciders across the state. La Familia also wants to start distributing and create a tap room in California.

“We want to introduce new flavors—every agua fresca that makes sense with cider,” he says.

“Our goal is to be the Corona of the hard cider world, and grow as big as we can,” he adds.

Besides being the Corona of ciders, La Familia also wants to make an impact in the Latino community of Oregon.

Since its inception, the company has donated to local immigration advocacy groups. In 2017, the company donated to Causa Salem, which was helping DACA youth at the time. In 2018, the company made a donation to Innovation Law Lab, Portland, a nonprofit immigration legal services organization.

A Latino-owned company helping its local community one cider bottle at a time. That’s something to raise our glass to—cheers!

READ: U.S. Beer Consumption Has Forced People In Mexicali To Fight Against A Major Brewery From Threatening Their Water Supply

What Is Pulque And Why Do People Either Love It Or Hate It?

Culture

What Is Pulque And Why Do People Either Love It Or Hate It?

Oscarlemuss / Instagram

Along with tequila and mezcal, pulque is the one of the most iconic Mexican alcoholic beverages. Its origins ago deep in history and speak of the indigenous past and present of the country.  This is what you need to know about this mythical drink that is making a comeback as a mainstream road to indulgence. 

So what exactly is pulque anyway?

 Pulque is beautiful in its simplicity. The drink is the fermented sap of the maguey or agave plant. It has a thick, gooey consistency that takes some time getting used to. It has a milky color in its pure state, but many pulquerias add fruit juices and honey to make it a curado or flavored pulque. This is how journalist Emily Sargent described pulque in The Times: “sweet, thick, syrupy agave juice served inexplicably in pint-jug portions”.

It was known as octli by the Aztecs and is surrounded by fascinating myths.

Credit: Instagram. @neomexicanismos

Pulque has been drunk for at least 1,000 years. The Aztecs believed that the liquid collected at the center of the succulent known as maguey was actually the blood of Mayahuel, the goddess of the maguey. It was also believed that if you got drunk on octli a rabbit would possess you. There were 400 rabbits known as Centzon Totochtin, and they were the children of Mayahuel.  Up to this day, some pulque drinkers spill some of their drink to the floor as an offering to Mother Earth. The word pulque is Mexican Spanish, dating in print to 1877. 

Pulque is a key element of Mexican popular culture.

Credit: Instagram. @celsotours

In particular, pulque is a constant in visual memories of the Mexican Revolution. Salud

There are even B-movies that honor pulque culture!

Credit: La Pulqueria / Videocine

In the 1970s and 1980s, low-quality films known as sexy-comedias-mexicanas showcased pulque culture in various films. The most famous is La Pulqueria, directed by Victor Manuel Castro and featuring la creme de la creme of Mexican comedians and the most famous boxer in Mexico’s history, Ruben Olivares. 

Pulque is now being consumed by Mexicans of all socioeconomic backgrounds.

Credit: Instagram. @neomexicanismos

For decades, pulque was associated with the lower classes, which speaks of the sad but inherent racism that permeates Mexican mestizo culture. For example, it was common to see homeless men drunk on pulque featured in Mexican cinema. The drink has made a huge comeback in the past 15 years, and pulquerias, traditional dens where people meet to drink pulque, are popular amongst city dwellers of all socioeconomic backgrounds. 

Pulque production is mostly artisanal and “organic.”

Credit: Instagram. @estampas_de_mexico1

Rather than being distilled as with tequila and mezcal, the elixir that emanates from the maguey is left to be fermented. First, the sap is extracted from the center of the maguey and then placed in 50-liter barrels called tinas. After than, mature pulque, known as seed pulque, is added to jump start the fermentation, which takes from one to two weeks. The pulque maker needs to consider factors such as the weather and the quality of the sap to determine the exact fermentation period that stops the pulque from turning sour and undrinkable. It is more art than science. 

Pulque is the product of a long, natural process.

Credit: Instagram. @cocinafacil

Pulque is a labor of love. Each maguey plants needs to mature for at least 12 years before the sap can be extracted. After that, it produces sap for only one year at the most. That is a long wait, but the benefits are worth it. 

And hey, it brings some health benefits too!

Credit: Instagram. @bandita_chilanga

Of course you need to drink it in moderation, but pulque does bring important nutritional benefits. An academic paper states that for some Mexicans “pulque was the third most important source of iron (non-heme form), ascorbic acid, riboflavin, and other B-vitamins”.  Carnales, it’s science! 

Pulquerias usually have creative names.

Credit: Instagram. @semahernandez

Great names include “My Office”, “Memories of the Future”, “Drink and Go”, “I’m Waiting for You Here at the Corner”, and  “The Recreation Center of Those Across the Street”. A true testament of Mexican everyday creativity and knack for humor.

The state of Hidalgo is pulque heaven.

Credit: Instagram. @mexico_desdeadentro

Even though pulque is produced across the country, particularly the areas surrounding Mexico City, the state of Hidalgo takes the crown as the most prolific. There are about 250 pulque haciendas in the state. 

In Tlaxcala, the state government has organized a tour called “la ruta del pulque.”

Credit: Instagram. @enriquenoriega

You can visit different production sites… and perhaps be possessed by a rabbit if you drink a bit too much!

There is no right or wrong way when it comes to pulque-drinking receptacles!

Credit: Instagram. @nilsbernstein

You know how people get snobbish when you drink white wine with a red wine glass? Well, that is not the case with pulque, which you can enjoy in basically anything that holds the nectar from the gods. Each pulqueria has its own style when it comes to serving methods. 

You can even drink it directly from the plant when it has been naturally fermented.

Credit: Instagram. @neomexicanismos

Yes, even a used Coke bottle will do! Just look at this pulque master!

Or you can also drink it straight from a maguey leaf.

Credit: Instagram. @oscarlemuss

Can you think of a more Instagrammable way of doing this? We can’t!

Mexico’s Mezcal Is Taking Over The Globe And Here Are 17 Reasons Why

Culture

Mexico’s Mezcal Is Taking Over The Globe And Here Are 17 Reasons Why

Mezcalalipus/ Instagram

As the traditional Mexican saying goes: “For everything bad, mezcal.  For everything good, mezcal”. The word mezcal comes from the Nahuatl mexcalli, which means “cooked agave”. This drink is one of the most popular spirits in the world. From the depths of Southwest Mexico, mezcal has conquered top shelves in the best bars in the planet, and has established itself as a Latin American alternative to whisky. Yes, Ashley Judd, we are with you!

Here are some facts you might not know about one of Mexico’s best gastronomic exports!

1. Mezcal is sort of like tequila, but not quite (it is kind of the classy, distinguished cousin!)

Credit: Instagram. @laperlamezcaleria

One of the biggest misconceptions about mezcal is that it is the same as tequila. They are not. The difference lays in three factors: the type of plant, the region that it comes from the production methods. Mezcal is made from up to 28 different varieties of agave, while tequila can only be produces using blue agave. Tequila comes from Jalisco, while mezcal comes traditionally from the state of Oaxaca and some regions of Guerrero and Michoacan. Last but not least: mezcal is produces using traditional methods, while tequila is now being mass manufactured. 

2. Mezcal is as “organic” as it gets.

Credit: Instagram. @mezcal.xaman

Mezcal was fully “organic” before the word started to be used as a marketing ploy. Most mezcal producers follow the traditional method of using in-ground pits. The agave hearts, or piñas, are slowly grilled over hot rocks in a cone-shaped pit. A fire burns for about 24 hours to heat the stones that line the pit. The piñas are put into the pit and then covered with moist agave fiber. The piñas are then cooked for two or three days. Wow.

We mean, just look at this. Can’t get more “organic” than that! 

3. Mezcal production requires tons of patience: each agave plant takes up to a decade to grow.

Credit: Instagram. @frijolitomezcalero

 These baby agaves (cute, right?) are being planted in the Gracias a Dios palenque (the term used for agave fields) in Oaxaca. It will take years of the proper irrigation, light conditions and care for them to grow into usable plants from the Tobala variety.

These ones took seven years to grow. That is 61,320 days. That is a long but worthy wait for an elixir that will take a few hours to be consumed! 

4. These are the types of mezcal you can enjoy.

Credit: Instagram. @elgrifotulum

Just like any complex spirit, mezcal comes in different varieties. When you buy mezcal, you have to look out for the following words in the bottle: 

  • Type I: The Mezcal is made with 100% agave as a base. Some bottles simply read 100% agave. 
  • Type II: It has 80% agave and some other ingredients like cane sugar. 
  • White: A clear spirit that was aged for 2 months or less.
  • Dorado: A white mezcal with added color. 
  • Reposado:  been aged between two and nine months in wooden barrels.
  • Añejo: indicates that it has been aged a minimum of 1 year, but usually as long as even 2 to 3 years.
  • Joven: a young Mezcal, aged just for a few months.

5. Mezcals have a personal signature: yes, each maestro mezcalero has his own style.

Credit: Instagram. @mezcalalipus

When traditional mezcal makers, maestros mezcaleros, were approached by new companies to develop their product into something more marketable, differences between production methods began to be notices. This is why each mezcal maker has a signature style: how long the agave heads burn for, how much coal they use, how long the agave rests for… all of this gives each bottle a unique taste. 

6. Mezcal is as complex as whisky.

Credit: Instagram. @mezcalalipus

Just like experts can identify whisky depending on the region where it is produced (some even claim to be able to taste the salty ocean waters of Scotland), mezcal provides overlapping layers of floral and smoky notes. The best way to discover these subtle bursts of flavor: let the mezcal cover your whole tongue. 

7. The best way to drink it: sipping it, with orange slices and sal de gusano on the side.

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Yes, the traditional and best way to enjoy it is with a side of sliced oranges and sal de gusano, which is a mix of salt, dry chili and crushed worms. Yes, it is heavenly. 

8. The glorious state of Oaxaca is mezcal heaven.

Credit: Instagram. @mezcalalipus

Rural communities have been producing mezcal for decades. You can now book tours that take you to different regions of the state. You can really taste the terroir in every sip. 

9. Oaxacan biodiversity sustains mezcal production.

Credit: Instagram. @banhezmezcalartesanal

Guess what? Mezcal is the product of a carefully balanced ecosystem. Mess with it, and we will have no more mezcal. 

10. Mezcal producers fight against mass, mechanized methods.

Credit: Instagram. @graciasadiosmezcal

Everything is artisanal when it comes to mezcal production. Look at these two gorgeous ladies bottling mezcal by hand. Producers argue that mechanization would only mean low quality. Here, here!  

11. Not so long ago people bought mezcal by the gallon! (and some still do.)

Credit: Instagram. @bandita_chilanga

For years, mezcal was considered a poor alternative to tequila. It was considered a cheap drink and it took decades for it to be introduced into urban nightlife and high end hospitality. People would buy it in bulk. 

12. Mezcal can be good for your health (in moderation, of course.)

Credit: Instagram. @grubnwhereabouts

Mezcal helps with digestion (it is a great way to end a big meal) and helps regulate blood sugars. Of course, you have to drink it in moderation, no more that two drinks per day. 

13. Mezcal made a huge comeback in the late 2000s, when it became a hipster thing in Mexico City.

Credit: Instagram. @madremezca

Mexico City hipster culture is in big part responsible for the resurgence of mezcal. A big element of hipster life is finding more natural products, and mezcal is as natural as it gets. Mezcal has become a culinary cult with a following that has embellished it with amazing visuals. 

And of course hipster cocktail masters all throughout the globe have made mezcal a staple of innovation. 

14. The mezcal industry is a multimillion dollar affair.

Credit: Instagram. @laperlamezcaleria

Mezcal has expanded into the European and Asian markets at a fast pace. There are now 1,000 mezcal brands and Oaxaca just won a court case that determined that the spirit has appellation of origin rights, which means that it can only be produced in the region. Things are looking up!  

15. Top chefs are just IN LOVE with mezcal.

Credit: Instagram. @laperlamezcaleria

This is what superstar Mexican chef Enrique Olvera told The Latin Times he would have as a last meal: “Either quesadillas, avocado tacos or a combination of both, a cold beer and some good mezcal”. The sweet kiss of death with a hint of smoky mezcal? We’ll that that! 

16. The Breaking Bad duo is teaming up again to open a boutique mezcal label: Dos Hombres.

Credit: Instagram. @aaronpaul

Yes. Brian Cranston and Aaron Paul had Breaking Bad fans hyperventilating at the possibility of an onscreen reunion, but they are doing something better (at least in our books): they are traveling Oaxaca in search of the perfect mezcal master to open their own label. Hell to the yes. 

17. Not a drinker? Have a chocolate then!

Credit: Instagram. @kollarchocolates

Mezcal is now being used in creative ways by chefs and chocolatiers. These little bocaditos of sweetness look just amazing. 

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