Raicilla, the New Mexican Elixir-Main

Featured in Vallarta Lifestyles Magazine, Fall/Winter 2007 issue.

When listing Mexican drinks, tequila is sure to appear at the top; however, there’s a new spirit that’s set to beat, or at least compete closely with, tequila in terms of popularity and quality: raicilla. According to the Mexican Wine Association, raicilla is a spirited drink with a defined aroma that reminds us of the sunny and well-drained lands that give birth to the agave. This nectar first appeared in the mining areas of San Sebastian del Oeste and is distilled from the agave plant, named after the Greek goddess of health. Raicilla, in turn, got its name from a producer in San Sebastian who was trying to evade taxes imposed on drinks during colonial times.

Even though raicilla and tequila both come from agave, they are quite different. And there are even different types of raicilla, due to the different kinds of agave in the area. The production of raicilla includes the selection of agave, processing and fermentation. It is then cooked, distilled and bottled. Each producer has different methods and give the drink their own personal touch.

On its Way to Globalization

The Raicilla Promotion Group was formed in 2000, headed by Jorge Antonio Dueñas Peña, a pioneer in the promotion and commercialization of the drink. This group made the word “raicilla” public property, rather than a specific brand, and protected the spirit under the Marca Colectiva (Collective Brand). Thanks to these advances in commercialization, raicilla can now be found in restaurants and wineries, with brands such as El Real and Siete Amigos, which are registered and of high quality.

Dueñas, who founded Raicilla El Real, began his quest to bring raicilla to the mainstream 10 years ago, while he was drinking raicilla. Today, his brand offers three types of Raicilla: Añeja, Oro and Blanca. Production takes place at Altamira Ranch (above) on the outskirts of El Tuito. There are currently 15 producers in the region, in locations such as San Sebastian del Oeste, Mascota and Talpa, and the arrival of new brands is imminent. In the meantime, you may ask for El Real and Siete Amigos raicilla at fine restaurants and liquor stores around town.

Ready to try it? Experts recommend cooling it to a temperature of 37.4 - 50ºF and enjoying its bouquet before trying its unmistakable taste. Cheers!