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Thousands of Years of Mexican Tradition Go Into La Viuda Negra’s Cocktails

Fruit, fermentation, and a complex spirit called pulque come together in the Fitzhugh Avenue bar’s curados

Tucked into a nondescript strip mall space on Fitzhugh Avenue, mezcaleria La Viuda Negra is serving some of the most distinctive new cocktails in Dallas, and they’re steeped in thousands of years in Mexican tradition.

Traditionally made with pulque, a spirit made with the fermented sap of agave plants, fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, and sweetener, curados are simple cocktails with an extensive history. The simple preparation, which involves boiling fruit, sugar and water together before mixing it with pulque, lends itself to thousands of different flavors and interpretations. With a sly smile sneaking across his face, Luis Villalva points out that “not everybody knows how to work with pulque.”

Considered an ancient predecessor to tequila and mezcal, Mexico’s most recognizable spirits, pulque is made by fermenting the sap of the maguey plant, as opposed to distilling it like tequila. According to the BBC, its presence in Mexico “pre-dates the Spanish by at least 1500 years,” and was used by some indigenous peoples for religious purposes and as a cure for various illnesses.

Real, honest-to-God pulque is often described as a vinegary funk-bomb — a gnarly beverage that the uninitiated should stay away from. It’s impossible to (legally) bring what most people would describe as “authentic” pulque into Texas, but a few Mexican companies import a pasteurized, canned version of the drink, which tastes a little bit like wine punched up with a splash of acid. La Viuda Negra uses an imported pulque to make one of the more common libations involving fermented agave, the curado, or cured pulque. Coming together with the pulque, the fruit makes the punch of the booze more palatable while adding probiotics, vitamins, and other nutrients.

At La Viuda Negra, Villalva swaps sweetened condensed milk for the traditional sugar or honey, resulting in sweet and frothy curados made with fruits like guava, mamey, and nanche, all common Central American fruits. The bar also uses cacahuates (peanuts) and cajeta (goat’s milk) to make its curados.

La Viuda Negra interior
The dimly-lit barroom at La Viuda Negra

Before planning a trip to La Viuda Negra to check out these complex, challenging cocktails, take a look at how curados are made at this hot new Knox District bar courtesy of Eater photographer Garrett Hall.

First, the fruits (or vegetables or nuts) are added to a blender. La Viuda Negra rotates this ingredient often and is dependent on what’s in season. Here Villalva prepares three different curados. One with guava, another with mamey and the last with nanche.

Next the sweetener is added. Traditionally, honey or sugar are used, but Villalva adds sweetened condensed milk, which makes the curados reminiscent of a frothy, boozy milkshake.

Now the pulque is added. Villalva’s pulque imported from Tlaxcala, a town three hours outside of Mexico City. Once everything is added to the blender, it’s mixed until smooth.

After everything is incorporated, the curado is strained to remove the solids. There’s no set recipe or measurements. It’s tasted throughout to make sure everything is balanced. More pulque here, more condensed milk there. Once the curado is finished, it’s left to rest in the refrigerator for a few days, where a natural fermentation process amps up its flavors.

The finished product is served in ornate clay mugs or maybe a pitcher, because it’s impossible to drink just one.

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