First of all, you should know that there are some lots fermented drinks from Mexico and all of Latin America. For example, in the state of Colima, people make a drink from fermented palm sap known as tuba. In the cool mountains of the state of Puebla, sidra, or apple cider, is common. A 2021 academic paper identified 16 artisanal fermented alcoholic beverages across the country. But for our purposes in Los Angeles, let’s focus on the three discussed – tejuino, tepache and pulque in the accompanying story.
The study of these drinks is still relatively scarce and they are not for everyone. According to Martha Giles-Gómez, a professor of microbiology at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, microbiological analyzes show that such rustic fermented beverages contain loads of probiotic enzymes, amino acids, and vitamins that replenish the gut microbiome and help drinkers maintain a healthy immune system .
If this is your first time drinking, here’s what you need to know to make sure you’re getting the good stuff. I sorted each drink into four categories on a scale of 1 to 5 (5 being the highest): how available it is; how reliable the quality of the drink is; how generally drinkable it is, with an eye on the mainstream or mild taste buds; and the alcohol content.
Do you know other restaurants or vendors that offer good tejuino, tepache or pulque? Let me know!
Made from mashed corn or cornmeal, it is boiled with Mexican brown sugar or piloncillo and left for two to three days.
A handful of booths in the San Gabriel Valley and southeastern LA County sell it during the day. Tequileros Tejuino & Snackbar (4500 Rosemead Blvd., Pico Rivera) makes possibly the best version of the drink on-site. The family behind the shop also sells from a nearby street stall. Expect it to be served in foam cups to take away.
Many sellers say they offer Tejuino, but a bit of questioning might reveal otherwise. Some vendors are wary of being associated with alcohol consumption and do not push their drink open Fermentation, but it must be for it to be called tejuino; otherwise it is a form of agua fresca de maíz – sugary corn water.
This drink should be brown with almost no sediment and look like an iced coffee or chai. The base flavor is sour with a layer of sweetness from the brown sugar cooked in it. The traditional preparation includes freshly squeezed lime juice and a pinch of sea salt. Ice is essential.
It rarely reaches a measurable potency (one study puts the ethanol content at 1%). But a common practice with this drink is the “piquete” or spike. Tejuino lovers in western Mexico sometimes enjoy it with an extra shot of tequila when they take it home. In Guadalajara, younger aficionados have joined the “tejuichela– Tejuino with beer.
It is made from pineapple skins fermented at room temperature with piloncillo and often cinnamon and cloves for two to four days, then refrigerated.
Many US companies are attempting to commercialize non-alcoholic tepache; I found a bottle called Tepachito at my local liquor store. Sell Erewhon Markets De La Calle Varieties and a brand called Big easy. Local home kitchen vendors are plentiful. At Madre, the mezcalería from Oaxaca is made Ivan Vasquez, the bar offers an Espadín cocktail with homemade tepache called Chido Wey! (801 N. Fairfax Ave., #101, Los Angeles). You can also find merchants selling carpets in and around the Alameda Swap Meet (4501 S. Alameda St., Los Angeles).
It’s hard to screw up tepache. Most can or bottle versions of the drink are effervescent and consistent with a clear amber color; Most also include additional flavors, as evidenced by De La Calle’s growing offering. Tepache is also remarkably easy to make at home. A recipe by The Times requires nothing more than bark, cinnamon, brown sugar, water, a pitcher and cheesecloth.
Tepache is the lightest of our three drinks and the easiest to start with. It’s crunchy and not too acidic. It is similar in texture and flavor to a standard ginger beer or kombucha. Drink it with or without ice. If all processed colas in Mexico were replaced with tepache, it probably wouldn’t be the second-highest obesity country in the world right now – after the United States.
Tepache does not become very alcoholic during its preparation, and the labels of most tins of Tepache on the market state that they contain no alcohol content at all. That said, Tepache is the drink that is best for mixing and goes well with almost any spirit, from mezcal to rum.
Made from agave juice, also known as aguamiel, it is fermented for three to four days or more. Flavors are often blended in to turn a glass of pulque into a “curado,” which imparts an array of colors to portions of pulque. My favorite curados from many Pulquería visits are coconut, guayaba, oatmeal, peanuts, and pine nuts.
Aquí es Texcoco restaurant (5850 S. Eastern Ave., Commerce) offers simple pulque and rotating curados — a quintessential weekend lunch experience in the Mexican city of the same name. Barbacoa is the main dish at this restaurant and pairs perfectly with the pulque, which is very drinkable. La Barbacha (2510 E. Cesar E. Chavez Ave., Boyle Heights) also has excellent barbacoa and good pulque. Two street vendors in or around the Mercado Olympic, known in English as the Piñata District, on Olympic Boulevard sell pulque on weekend mornings. Quality varies wildly.
Pulque is moody. As the days go by, it becomes acidic and flat, or its viscosity becomes overwhelming. Some pulqueros say it’s best to wait until after Mexico’s rainy season to drink it. Since there’s no known local production of the drink, any pulque you drink in LA is likely brought over from Mexico. Freshness is hard to pin down. For now I cannot trust any pulque that is canned or bottled as the necessary pasteurization process kills the fermentation.
It’s not for nausea (people describe the drink as similar in consistency to saliva). In pulquerías in Mexico City, it’s common for vendors to attempt to extend the drink’s shelf life by mixing questionable additives like sodium bicarbonate or nopal juice. And know this: Due to the drink’s complex probiotic cultures, someone drinking it for the very first time may experience a sudden flush in the stomach, so be warned! “It’s literally a ‘living’ drink. There are huge amounts of microorganisms and lactic acid bacteria,” says Giles-Gómez.
Pulque’s hit can be deceiving. Giles-Gómez and other researchers measure its alcohol content at around 5%, but some have reached 8%, similar to a muscular IPA. Remember that indigenous peoples used pulque in pre-Hispanic religious ceremonies and it is still given to nursing mothers and the elderly in rural areas to this day. Drinking pulque creates an effect of contentment or even a philosophical mindset. Buzz-induced smiles are inevitable.
https://www.latimes.com/food/story/2022-03-17/primer-fermented-beverages-mexico-guide-pulque-tepache-tejuino I was looking for Mexican fermented drinks in LA. Here’s what to look for – and what to avoid