The first time I tried tepache cocktails, my palate expanded a bit. Cocktail vinegars (or shrubs) were big for a year or two, but they can be a little harsh for some people. Tepache has a much less aggressive flavor that still adds a kick to drinks. With a slightly carbonated quality, due to the fermentation process, it provides a hint of fizz that I love. Summer is the perfect time for pineapple flavors, like this grilled syrup, or tepache. Let’s explore some delicious ways to use tepache in cocktails but first let’s learn a little about this fun ingredient.
What is tepache?
Tepache is a fermented beverage that originated in Mexico with the Nahua people. It was originally made with corn as the base but the use of pineapple is a more modern version. It is fairly simple to make and some people speed up the process by adding beer. Tepache is made from pineapple rinds, water, brown sugar, cinnamon, and cloves. These ingredients are added to a glass container and covered. The mixture sits at room temperature for 2-3 days of fermentation. As with most fermentation processes, the resulting mixture ends up producing alcohol. Due to the short fermentation period, tepache is only 2% ABV. This is a great way to create zero waste in your kitchen or bar, since you can use the fruit of the pineapple for juice or eating.
Some people mistakenly think that tepache is a type of kombucha but that process requires other ingredients, including a scoby. However, if you can’t make or buy tepache, you could use kombucha as a substitute in the recipes below. The flavor profile isn’t that different, other than the pineapple forward base flavor of tepache.
Should you make or buy tepache?
If you’re making other things with a pineapple, like juice or an infused rum, you will be left with pineapple rinds. It’s a good excuse to try making your own tepache. Keep in mind that homemade tepache only lasts two weeks in the refrigerator. The other thing is that getting the sweetness level correct for your taste may take a couple of tries. And finally, you want to make sure that you are staying safe. When you are fermenting something, you are relying on yeast and bacteria to break down the sugars (carbohydrates) in your mixture. Keeping your eye on how long things are left out at room temperature and skimming off the top as the tepache ferments is key. You can learn more about how to make your own tepache here.
Buying tepache is obviously a lot easier, unless you can’t find any near you. I only recently came across the tepache pictured above in a local grocery store. If you have a Mexican grocery store near you, that would also be a good place to find commercial brands like Tepachito.
1. Prickly Pear Tepache Margarita
When you start with a solid base recipe, like a perfect Tommy’s Margarita, a slight tweak can make it even better. That is certainly the case with this tepache cocktail recipe. Plus, it’s super easy to make with only four ingredients. Fresh squeezed lime juice, agave, and tequila meet a generous pour of prickly pear tepache. This drink was so good, I made it three nights in a row.
Prickly Pear Tepache Margarita
- 2 oz tequila
- 1 oz lime juice
- 0.5 oz agave
- 1 oz Prickly Pear tepache
- Add tequila, lime juice, and agave to a shaker with ice.
- Shake 20 seconds and strain into a glass with ice.
- Top with prickly pear tepache and stir lightly before serving.
2. Mango Tepache Daiquiri
Daiquiris always make me think of my trip to Cuba. Rum and tropical flavors are so complimentary. When I saw this mango-flavored tepache it seemed like the perfect additive to a classic daiquiri, and it was. The mango flavor was very light, so you could definitely use more tepache if you want it to stand out more.
Mango Tepache Daiquiri
- 2 oz rum
- 0.25 oz lime juice
- 0.25 oz agave
- 2 oz tepache
- Add the first three ingredients to a shaker with ice.
- Shaker 20 seconds and strain into a chilled coupe glass.
- Slowly add the tepache to the glass and stir gently before adding a garnish and serving.
3. Tepache Mezcal Highball
If you’re looking for the ultimate Mexican-inspired highball, this is for you. The smokiness of the mezcal plays off the tepache to make the perfect refresher. It’s light but complex and the pineapple notes peek out more as the ice melts. This will definitely be making it into my regular rotation. I am looking forward to trying it with the flavored tepaches as well.
Tepache Mezcal Highball
- 1.5 oz mezcal
- 2 oz tepache
- 4 oz club soda or sparkling water
- Add ice to a highball glass.
- Slowly pour each of the ingredients over the ice (so it doesn't fizz up over the glass).
- Add a straw and stir once or twice before enjoying.
4. Tepache Old Fashioned
Old Fashioned cocktails are so versatile. The format is easy to mix up and substitute new flavors and ingredients into. Playing with different types of bourbon or whiskey can bring out the best in the pineapple flavors of the tepache. I would suggest using something lighter, like Four Roses, but it’s up to you.
Tepache Old Fashioned
- 2 oz bourbon
- 2 oz tepache
- 3 dashes tropical bitters
- 0.25 oz simple syrup
- Add ingredients to a mixing glass or tin with ice.
- Stir 20 seconds to dilute and strain into a rocks glass with a large ice cube.
5. Veranda Way
This cocktail comes from Scofflaw in Chicago, which specializes in gin-based cocktails. I found it when I was researching Aperol gin cocktails for a recent post. It sounded really good and I’ve had this bar on my list of bars to visit in Chicago since my trip last summer. This drink was super balanced but could be made slightly sweeter, if you like it that way. I added the rose petals for appearance but you can garnish anyway you’d like.
- 1.75 oz gin
- 1.25 oz tepache
- 0.5 oz Aperol
- 0.5 oz lime juice
- 0.25 oz simple syrup
- Add all ingredients to a shaker with ice.
- Shake 20-30 seconds and strain into a Nick and Nora glass. Garnish and serve.
And there you have five delicious tepache cocktails to try. I think they all work well in the summer, or in the dead of winter when you’re looking for a little sunshine in your glass. If you’re looking for more, these cachaça cocktails will also bring some new flavors into your life as well.