Bunny Blanco is Reviving a 2,000-Year-Old Drink of the Gods

“The world loves tequila and Mexican beer, so now it’s time for them to try the drink of the gods.”

During the reign of the Aztec empire, priests and royalty consumed a mystical drink from the gods thought to bring wealth and fertility.

Said to be from the goddess Mayahuel, Pulque was so occult that it was only shared with commoners after giving birth, if they were elderly, or seriously ill.

Over centuries, the fermented wine made from agave sap became more accessible and found itself as the most popular drink in the Americas.

However, as Europeans brought goods to Mexico, they built campaigns against pulque and other native spirits. As propaganda associated it with the classless, the drink fell out of favor, to be replaced in popularity with Mexican beer.

In just a matter of years, a 2,000-year-old drink deeply rooted in Mexican culture was nearly forgotten.

Diego Pizano

But some people, including Diego Pizano, founder of Bunny Blanco, are on a mission to change that.

“I want pulque to be as well-known as tequila and mezcal,” said Diego.

Diego started Bunny Blanco, a ready-to-drink (RTD) pulque-based cocktail company in 2023. The drinks mix fermented agave nectar with fresh fruits, a mixture Diego calls “tequila meets kombucha.”

And while he launched the company just last year, the original idea started quite a bit earlier.

Pulque has played an important role in Diego’s family. His grandparents worked on farms and raised agave plants, and his uncle ran a pulquería – a pub specifically for pulque.

As the first generation of his family born in the United States, he took a trip to Mexico to visit family in 2021; a trip which began his effort to bring a 2,000-year-old drink back to life.

“During Covid, I took a gap year and went to visit family in Mexico,” said Diego. “That’s when I tried pulque for the first time.”

“I heard about it throughout my life from my family, and it has had a bit of a renaissance in Mexico among young people, but I could never drink it because I wasn’t there,” Diego continued. “Trying it for the first time was life changing. It made me question why it wasn’t available in the U.S.”

Pulque has a short lifespan – only lasting for three days. Because of this, it is generally consumed only in Mexico, and mostly around Mexico City, where a majority of agave farms are.

Despite this challenge, Diego was set on finding a way to bring it to the United States.

He returned home and the idea sat in the back of his head until 2023, when as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago he took part in the Polsky Center’s CNVC.

Bunny Blanco presenting at the 2023 CNVC finals.

During this process, three other students joined his team, and the group started figuring out how to bring Diego’s idea to life. Through the CNVC, he was introduced to a number of experts in CPG, beverage, and importing.

“We met with a lot of people who know a lot about the industry,” said Diego. “I was 22 years old at the time, didn’t know anything about importing, and was just legally allowed to start drinking. I didn’t know much about starting a company, so the NVC put us in contact with people who could really get us started.”

The team focused on research during the CNVC. They found out how much it would cost to start the company, the legal requirements, the logistical challenges, and more. By the end of it, he was confident they had something.

“CNVC proved to me that it’s an idea that could work and that people in the industry, investors, and people outside of my culture and background could value and enjoy,” said Diego.

The team finished second place that year and Diego graduated shortly after. That summer, he enrolled in the Polsky Center’s Launch accelerator, which allows students and recent graduates to spend their summer building their venture.

During this program, Diego was given two interns who helped him with market research and branding. In addition, it helped fund a trip to Mexico where he was able to meet with suppliers and work through his supply chain.

“If I didn’t have that support following graduation, I don’t know if Bunny Blanco would be where it is today,” said Diego. “CNVC was the idea stage – where my prototype was tested and ultimately given approval. Launch was – as the name suggests – our launching pad. We made our logo, met with suppliers, had a team; the PowerPoints became real life.”

Bunny Blanco is now part of the Polsky Founders’ Fund Fellowship Program (PF3), which provides graduating UChicago students support and funding to continue building their ventures.

Diego says that each of these programs, in addition to his time at Booth, played a pivotal role in his growth, and that of Bunny Blanco.

“As a student I heard stories from people who successfully built businesses, and that brought the world of entrepreneurship close to me,” said Diego. “Booth and the Polsky Center are what helped me understand the entrepreneurial world and feel confident enough to start my own venture.”

Diego recently finalized the packaging of his product – which is a direct nod to pulque’s mystical origins. Each drink has a different embodiment of a bunny god – one of Mayahuel’s 400 bunny children which are said to preserve their immortality and party spirit within pulque. This spirit and power are temporarily given to those who drink pulque.

He also has each of his recipes completed, which he was able to do while on a recent trip to Mexico. While there he met with professional mixologists, pulquería owners, and other experts to ensure the drinks tasted great, while also maintaining its authenticity.

The process worked, as Bunny Blanco is the only RTD pulque cocktail officially backed by the National Museum of Pulquerías.

“Pulque has been in my family for a long time, and I put in the effort of meeting with people who are truly passionate about it to ensure what I’m offering is authentic,” said Diego.

With strawberry, passion fruit, and piña colada flavors ready, Bunny Blanco is now focused on getting the word out. It recently launched a new website and has goals to launch in several markets this year. Bunny Blanco is also hoping to raise money over the next few months, providing critical funds to launch the product to market through grocery stores and online direct to consumer.

Looking further ahead, Diego hopes to make pulque a global drink, joining the ranks of its agave-based brethren mezcal and tequila.

“The world loves tequila and Mexican beer, so now it’s time for them to try the drink of the gods,” said Diego.

There are some benefits to drinking pulque versus other liquors, says Diego, including its low alcohol content, which reflects a growing trend towards lighter drinks. Pulque is also low calorie, low sugar, gluten free, and made with real fruit. It’s better for the environment as well because unlike other agave spirits that require killing the plant, pulque is made by removing its sap — a process that can be repeated on the same plant for two years while its replacement grows right next to it.

Legally, pulque is considered a wine, which allows Bunny Blanco to be sold direct to consumer nationwide, unlike spirits.

And while Diego is looking forward to growing the business, he’s also excited about the impact it could have on Mexico.

“Pulque in Mexico has been a slowly dying art that is only recently regaining attention. If I can introduce U.S. consumers to this drink, I can do my share in keeping this tradition alive,” said Diego. “This will help preserve the jobs of people who are growing pulque in Mexico, and create new jobs through increased production.”

Visit Bunny Blanco’s website to learn more.

Article by Darwin Minnis, associate director of media relations and external communications at the Polsky Center. Darwin has a passion for telling the stories of the people, products, and companies that are making a positive impact on their communities. Reach Darwin via email.

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