What is Bacanora?

Sonora, Mexico has a traditional drink, also known as a state drink, called Bacanora. This is very similar to the state of Jalisco, Mexico, who considers tequila their traditional state drink.

This robust alcoholic beverage is derived from the plant named Agave Yaquiana, better known as agave Pacifica, because it grows in Sonora’s mountain range. They have been producing Bacanora for 300 years and counting, and the secret to producing this traditional state beverage is passed down from generation to generation.

And it should come as no shock to anyone to learn that this traditional drink first began being produced in the town of Bacanora. As a matter of fact, in the Official Gazette of Mexico, on November 6, 2000, they published a formal declaration called the General Declaration of Protection to the Name BACANORA. And because of this formal declaration, the state of Sonora is acknowledged as the only state legally allowed to produce Bacanora.

The traditional ways of distilling and manufacturing Bacanora is interesting to learn about, because they’re using the same method that they first began distilling this drink with for more than hundreds of years.

As the agave matures between the ages of 6 and 7 years old, harvesters will then hand select each plant and begin to cut the plant directly from the trunk with a jaibica, which is a small axe used to remove each plant by hand. They also proceed to go directly to the agave core and remove all of the leaves from the area.

Next, they have underground pits that they use to cook and/or a roast the cores. Within the walls of these pits, the area is encased with volcanic rock, which is then heated up using mesquite charcoal. The entire roasting/cooking process takes about two days.

On day 3, they then remove the roasted agave cores from the underground pit. At this point, they proceed to chop and mash the agave pulp to oblivion.

The pulp is then put directly into the pit, but it is encased in cement, cleaned thoroughly with fresh water, more freshwater is added to the cement encasing, and then they cover it and put it in the ground so that it doesn’t come into contact with the air. This is when the fermentation process starts, which typically lasts for 6-12 days, depending on the temperature of the surrounding area.

Saite, the product produced after fermentation, is placed in a stainless steel still. They heat the still using direct fire derived from mesquite charcoal, and a water-cooled copper coil is inside the still.

Saite is then mixed with soft water, put back in the still, and from here the distillation process begins. They have an inverted funnel that they use to conduct vapor, which seals the still at the higher part, and the vapor is delivered to the copper coil submerged within the freshwater. The condensed vapor is what ultimately becomes Bacanora after a double distillation process, which creates a higher quality product overall.


Tequila Tim is an avid tequila and mezcal drinker. While not in his day job of Marketing, he's made it his goal to entertain, educate, and bring joy to fellow agave lovers across the world with product reviews, hot takes, and tequila travel stories. Make sure to subscribe to Tequila Tales on YouTube so you don't miss any updates!

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