Artisanal agave spirits have burst onto the market over the past few years, but beyond single-barrel, vintage-dated tequilas and mezcals, there’s another agave-based spirit gaining cult momentum: pechuga. Stemming from an age-old tradition among mezcal producers throughout Mexico, pechuga varies from distillery to distillery and is typically only produced in tiny amounts for personal consumption. Crafted from closely guarded family recipes, it is made by redistilling a finished mezcal with a mix of wild, seasonal fruits, often grains and always a raw, skinless chicken breast—vegetarians, look the other way now.
As bizarre as it sounds, the results are astoundingly delicious. As the chicken breast is suspended by its ribcage over the percolating distillation, the steam cooks through the chicken within minutes. Common belief holds that the chicken’s fat and proteins help soften the blow of the smoky mezcal. The addition of a selection of wild fruit helps, too.
For the past few years Del Maguey’s super-rare (and correspondingly expensive) pechuga has been your only chance to get a taste of the meaty mezcal here in the States, which, despite its $200 price tag, has found rousing success for its succulent, scotch-like flavors of smoke, roasted fruit and salty sea air. But come the first few weeks of the New Year, newbie mezcal producer, Fidencio, will release a version, much to the eager anticipation of tequila and mezcal geeks across the country. Their 2010 vintage bottling, distilled with organic, estate-grown agave, wild apples, quince and their own farm-raised chicken breasts, is assertive and alluring with notes of tropical fruits, barbecue smoke and black pepper spice. It will retail for around $80 a bottle in specialty liquor stores and select online retailers around the country.