El Tuito’s local “moonshine” has a shadowy history of illegal production in remote back woods areas where unlabeled plastic soda bottles were sold to those who knew where to find it. Today production is now legal and local distillers are getting better at their craft. Known as raicilla, it can be found in artistic glass bottles throughout much of Mexico.
The state of Jalisco is where the raicilla agaves grow. My friend Miguel produces his artisan raicilla on his property in Tuito. He tells me it takes seven years for the agave to be ready for a February harvest. The tough leaves are cut off revealing the root ball called a piña which is cut into chunks and cooked for 2-3 days in his wood-fired clay pit then ground into mash and fermented in barrels. It takes 30 gallons of fermented liquid to make one quart of raicilla which Miguel sells from his ranch in El Tuito.
Compared to tequila and mezcal, raicilla is considered the most fragrant and fruity. Production is still done in small batches and considered an artisanal craft with the same denominacion origen status that many original Mexican products have. We visit Miguel on my El Tuito Tour: www.puertovallartawalkingtours.com
By Sandra Cesca, freelance writer, cultural photographer, and tour guide