Penca’s Tepache

Bryan Eichhorst, Penca | Tucson, AZ

Walk down a bustling city street in one of Mexico’s major cities and it won’t be long before you run into a street vendor peddling a curious lineup of Technicolor beverages from industrial-sized plastic containers. Within these jugs one can find an array of aguas frescas—from horchata to tamarindo—but most interesting is tepache, a tangy, fermented beverage whose alcohol content places it outside the realm of fruit juice. It’s a staple on the streets of Mexico and has been consumed and produced all over the country since pre-Columbian times. Corn was the original base ingredient for the drink up until at least the early 1500s (hence the name tepache, which comes from the nahuatl word tapiatl meaning “drink made from corn”), but today it’s most commonly made with pineapple flesh and rinds, invigorated with cinnamon, clove and other spices, and sweetened with piloncillo (Mexican brown sugar).

At Penca, in Tucson, Arizona, the house tepache is made with whole overripe pineapples, cloves, allspice and a finisher of Mexican beer and brown sugar. The result is a pungent, tangy version perfect for mixing with beer or into a stronger cocktail like Brian Eichhorst’s Bourbon and Tepache.

Ingredients

Yield: Approximately 1 1/2 gallons

  • 3 pineapples, overripe
  • 1/3 cup cloves
  • 1/3 cup allspice berries
  • 6 canela sticks, cracked
  • 5 quarts (approx) water
  • 24 ounces Mexican beer, light
  • 2 lbs brown sugar

Directions
  1. Cut crowns and butts from the pineapple. Leave the rest of the skin.
  2. Roughly cube pineapple.
  3. In a 6-quart food-safe container, add pineapple (with leaves and skins), spices and enough water to fill the remaining space.
  4. Cover partially, leaving lid slightly ajar and put in a warm place for 3 days.
  5. After three days, add beer and sugar.
  6. Close and let sit for two more days.
  7. Strain off solids and add more sugar to taste.
  8. Refrigerate. Bottle if desired, but "burp" (open to release pressure) regularly.