The insistent aroma of pápalo, which I'd first encountered at a Mexican Independence Day Festival, led me inside La Costeñita by the nose; there's a varied, fresh (but unlabeled) assortment of herbs just below the checkout counter. Wandering back to the refrigerator cases, I found to my surprise that not all the six-packs were cerveza. (I was much more surprised that same morning, when I read Nina Lalli's article on Serious Eats.)
Pulque is an alcoholic beverage, fermented from the juice of the maguey, a type of agave. (Distill pulque, and you have mezcal; begin with a closely related agave, and you're on your way to tequila.) Hacienda 1881 pulque (11.3 oz.; $2) is offered at La Costeñita only in the "natural" style, which Lalli (writing about a different brand) described as "pear past its prime"; my thought, after a sip of the thin, uncarbonated, ivory-colored murk, was "pear with a goatee." Though the manufacturer's website also promises an assortment of fruit-flavored varieties, like Lalli I'm more intrigued by the prospect of a "thick and frothy" artisan brew.
That would require a pulqueria, and there's none such in New York. While we wait, has anyone come upon a local source for fermented palm juice?
La Costeñita Grocery
2155 Second Ave. (at East 112th St.)