DIY Tepache

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Tepache—one of Mexico’s most beloved street drinks made of fermented pineapple rinds—is one of the most interesting ingredients being incorporated into cocktail programs across the country right now. If you’ve never tried the lightly alcoholic beverage, imagine a spice-infused glass of fizzy, slightly funky pineapple juice. It’s bright and tropical with a little earthiness, and it tastes amazing when mixed with beer or agave spirits.

At places like Victor Tangos in Dallas, general manager and barman Matt Ragan was introduced to the drink by bartender Alejandro Galindo, who grew up sipping batches from plastic baggies bought from street vendors in his native Mexico. When Galindo brought his favorite drink to the Ragan, it didn’t take Ragan long before he worked it into the beverage program. “The first time Alejandro made it for me and it blew my mind,” he says. 

Something that good, with that kind of depth and nuance should be in every craft bar in the damn world. It’s tropical, fruity, spiced, earthy, bright and creamy. There is so much going on in that glass, how could you taste it and not get instantly excited.

At the bar, Galindo follows a mostly traditional recipe, minus the addition of tamarind, which adds a bright zing to the mix. “I wanted to pay respect to such a rich tradition, to the history and the simple brilliance, depth and beauty of a beverage my people have been fermenting since before Columbus arrived here,” he says. “My favorite way to drink it is on family day, bring out a big punch bowl and serve it up to everyone as we celebrate each other.”

Regardless of how you choose to enjoy tepache, here’s Galindo’s house recipe so you can mix up a batch at home.

2 whole pineapples, rinds removed and set aside
2 cinnamon sticks
10 whole cloves
10 tamarind pods
2 piloncillo pyramids or about 16 oz. brown sugar
Approximately 25 oz. distilled water*
Tools: large liquid container, strainer, muddler

Cut the rinds off the pineapples and extract the pineapple juice. Combine the juice, rinds from both pineapples, water, cinnamon, cloves and tamarind pods together in a large vessel. Cover with a cloth to prevent debris from falling into the vessel, and let sit (and ferment) for about four days at room temperature. After four days, grate both pyramids of piloncillo into the tepache and stir vigorously. Cover and ferment again in the refrigerator for 3 more days. After 3 days in the refrigerator, strain the mixture until it’s free of debris and press (using a muddler) the pineapple rinds to release as much liquid as possible. Add the liquid back into the mix, chill and enjoy.

*You want the amount of water added to equal half the ounces of pineapple juice. As a general rule of thumb, one pineapple will render about 25 oz. of juice, so if you juice two as this recipe dictates, you will yield about 50 oz. total. However much pineapple juice you get from your pineapples, add 1⁄2 that amount in water.

Alejandro Galindo, Victor Tangos, Dallas