18 Fermented Drinks You Need To Know

Ever wondered why your supermarket shelves are now a veritable carnival of fermented beverages? Well, it's not just a quirky coincidence. There are many reasons for the growing interest in this ancient art and the drinks it produces. First, personal health, specifically our guts and how they're connected to our minds, is prioritized more than before, and probiotic-rich, functional drinks are an accessible, feel-good elixir. What's more, we've gotten used to demanding nothing less than authentic, artisanal food experiences and sustainable practices — which is exactly what fermentation provides. Finally, ever since the COVID-19 pandemic, the DIY culture has been steadily gaining momentum, with many individuals trying their hand at homebrewing.

But let's be honest: the kombucha craze? Old news. Especially when you've got dozens of new options to explore, from the tropical Mexican tepache and Andean corn-based chicha to Japan's milk soda and Russian rye kvass. While a lot of them aren't mainstream yet, now is the perfect time to learn more about these cultural postcards packed with health perks.


Say hello to amazake, one of Japan's oldest drinks that dates back to Japan's Kofun period. While the name translates to "sweet sake," this thick, cloudy libation is not to be confused with its alcoholic namesake. Now, amazake can be served either warm or cold, but more often than not, it's enjoyed hot during chillier months.

There are several variations of the drink based on the ingredients used. For example, sake kasu amazake is made with sugar and sake lees (fermented rice mash leftover from sake production) dissolved in boiling water. This lightly alcoholic beverage is a favorite of shrine visitors on New Year's Day. In turn, koji amazake is crafted using koji, a fungus used in fermenting miso, soy sauce, and sake. It's added to cooked glutinous rice while it's still hot and left to ferment for a few hours, allowing koji enzymes to break down the rice's starches, creating a sweet flavor.


Beloved across many nations, from Turkey to Kyrgyzstan, this eggnog-resembling elixir warms the soul and fills the belly –and has been doing so for at least 8,000 years. Boza is born from hulled millet boiled in water, cooled, and mixed with existing boza as a starter. But it's not a one-grain show; it can also be crafted from wheat, barley, rice, and other grains. As its fermentation journey progresses, the sugar is gradually replaced with acetic acid, giving boza its unique sweet-and-sour flavor.

Once a low-alcohol beverage, it survived the Ottoman Empire's 17th-century prohibition laws to emerge in its modern, non-alcoholic, sweet, cream-colored version in 19th-century Istanbul. And if you happen to wander through its streets today, you may still find the historic Vefa Bozacısı, the first boza shop established in 1876, serving this cherished drink. Thick and creamy, it's always crowned with a sprinkle of cinnamon or roasted chickpeas to balance its flavor.


Circling back to Japan, we find Calpis, Japan's first lactic acid beverage, created slightly over a century ago. The story begins with visionary entrepreneur Kaiun Mishima, who was stirred into creation by Mongolia's fermented milk drinks during his early 20th-century travels. Launched in 1919, Calpis was embraced for its non-refrigeration convenience, propelling its popularity. The "cal" part of its name refers to calcium, while "pis" comes from the Sanskrit "sarpis," a nod to the milk-enhancing fermentation process and Buddhism's quintet of flavors. However, to the wider world, it's known as Calpico, a clever rebrand to sidestep unappetizing phonetic faux pas.

The original cloudy white product sold in signature blue polka dot bottles is a concentrate meant to be diluted with water or soda. Crafted from powdered milk, water, yeast, and lactic acid, it delivers a tangy, mellow milky punch. For the vegan crowd, a soymilk-based alternative hit the market in 2020.


Hailing from South America, chicha is a fascinating beverage steeped in Andean history, predating both the Europeans and the Incas. Its most traditional form is Peruvian chicha de jora, a low-alcohol fermented beverage crafted from white or yellow Andean corn. Initially, chicha was a laborious brew, requiring women to chew corn, spit it into a clay bowl, and bury it for two weeks to ferment.

While its name comes from chibcha, the Panamanian word  for "maize," it isn't limited to corn anymore. Over the centuries, many countries and regions developed their unique take on this indigenous drink — from quinoa-infused chicha blanca to peanut-laced chicha de mani. Today, you'll find chicha in all its glory throughout South America, from roadside stands to designated chicherías. Whether you're sipping a sweet, pineapple-infused Salvadoran version or a strawberry-flavored chicha frutillada in Cusco, remember: Each chicha tells a story of its people, their traditions, and their land.


Taking a quick jaunt across the pond to Germany, we'll encounter a delightful concoction known as fassbrause (from German fass for "keg" and brause for "soft drink"). This beverage was the brainchild of Berlin chemist Ludwig Scholvien, who, back in 1908, sought to craft an alcohol-free beer alternative. His fermented blend of apples, herbs, licorice, and malt was brewed in barrels and distributed by horse-drawn carriages — much like actual beer.

Decades later, an American by the name of Larry Stillman had a sip of this unique beverage and thought, "Hey, we need this back home!" So, he did just that: secured the recipe, brought it to his home state of Utah, and rebranded it as Apple Beer. Now, it's a staple in Salt Lake City. These days, fassbrause is an umbrella term for a variety of nonalcoholic products and beer mixes, most often an alcohol-free beer mixed with fruity flavorings.


Hardaliye isn't your average grape juice full of artificial additives and sweeteners. Its ingredient list is the real deal: whole grapes and their juice, sour cherry leaves, mustard seeds, and benzoic acid. No added water, no added sugar — just pure, natural goodness. The result? A drink so delectable that Atatürk himself declared it the national drink of Turkey.

Hardaliye gets its name and characteristic kick from mustard seeds (hardal, in Turkish), which spice up the flavor and, together with benzoic acid, control fermentation, keeping the alcohol content to a minimum. The cherry leaves keep the drink fresh and extend its shelf life. For Muslim communities whose faith forbade the consumption of alcohol, hardaliye was a clever grape preservation method. The process involved layering all the ingredients in a vessel and fermenting for 1 to 3 weeks. It was then filtered and stored at a cool 39 degrees Fahrenheit, ready to be enjoyed fresh or aged for extra depth.


Chances are, you already know kombucha, an iconic brew that's part ancient Chinese tradition, part modern health craze. This peculiar concoction, crafted from tea, sugar, and a rather aesthetically challenged yeast disc known as SCOBY, is no novice to the limelight.

In the tumultuous 1980s, immune-boosting kombucha had its first dance with popularity amidst the devastating AIDS epidemic. Though its star faded by the late 1990s, kombucha found a revival as we stepped into the 21st century, hand-in-hand with our growing appreciation for probiotics and the health potential of fermented foods. Today, kombucha stands tall as a functional beverage, jam-packed with inflammation-busting, digestion-aiding, and gut health-promoting probiotics.

Thinking of trying your hand at brewing? It's simpler than you'd think, provided you sidestep common homemade kombucha mistakes. Choose your starter tea wisely and treat your SCOBY with care, and you'll be sipping on your own brew before you know it.


This humble fermented rye bread drink has stolen the hearts of Russia and its neighboring nations. Kvass journeyed to Russia from Ancient Greece and Egypt over a millennium ago, and thanks to the availability of ingredients, it found a steady home there. Thousands of flavors have been developed since then — sweet, sour, minty, fruity, spicy, you name it. Each has its unique recipe, but the heart of the drink, fermented rye bread, remains constant.

The beauty of kvass lies in its simplicity: You toast some dark rye bread, soak it in water, sweeten the infusion with sugar, and let the yeast do its magic. After a day or two at room temperature, bottle it up and enjoy chilled. But unlike other beverages on the list, its uses are not limited to quenching Russia's thirst for soda — kvass can be found doubling as a broth replacement in the country's signature cold soups like okroshka and tyurya.


Hailing from the arid Punjab region, lassi was initially created as a cooling antidote to the sweltering heat. Its moniker stems from the Sanskrit word "lassiya," a nod to the art of mixing. The basic recipe calls for a refreshing blend of yogurt, water, and a pinch of salt, mixed until frothy and served chilled. In its homeland, it's the trusty sidekick to fiery feasts or a solo indulgence, often bedazzled with a medley of fruits.

If you've never tried a cool mango lassi, this is your sign. Just blend thawed mango chunks, plain yogurt, whole milk, honey, a sprinkle of cardamom powder, and a squeeze of lime juice. Plus, the recipe is incredibly easy to veganize through the use of plant-based yogurt and coconut milk. Garnish with mint, and voila! And while sweet lassies may be the OG smoothies, don't sleep on the savory versions. They're a spiced twist on the basic recipe, often including cumin, cilantro, or chili powder.


Picture a robust, tangy, and slightly sweet beverage that packs a caloric punch — that's mageu (or mahewu, mahleu, or amarhewu, depending on where you are). It's a staple across Southern Africa, from Zambia to Namibia, and is a traditional drink made from fermented maize. Despite its humble rural roots, you'll find it in city supermarkets, factory-made and sporting an array of flavors akin to your favorite yogurt — think guava, pineapple, or an extra strong version for the daring.

This alcohol-free drink is often home-brewed in rural areas in naturally cooling clay pots. Making mageu at home is a simple affair: Thin out cornmeal porridge with water, add malt, and let it ferment for a couple of days. This pleasantly sour beverage is not just refreshing but invigorating, providing much-needed energy for those working in the fields. Plus, it's a convenient food substitute, particularly for the elderly and unwell, thanks to its high nutritional value.


If you thought a fermented drink's most unexpected base ingredient was maize or turnip, think again. Mauby, a refreshing brew with a past as rich as its flavor profile, is made from none other than tree bark. It all started around the 17th century, when the Carib women in Barbados were whipping up a sweet potato-based version, then referred to as mobbie. The British colonists in the following centuries opted for an upgrade, fermenting a tree-bark brew as a substitute for English booze.

Traditionally, mauby is made by boiling the bark of the Colubrina elliptica (snakewood or mauby tree) with orange peel, warming spices, and a sweetener. Some let it ferment, while others served it fresh, bracingly bitter, reminiscent of root beer but with a lingering bite. Nowadays, while some still brew their mauby at home, the convenience of instant mauby syrup from the supermarket (or Amazon!) appeals to most.


The brainchild of Ann Wigmore, the infamous founder of the Hippocrates Health Institute, rejuvelac is a fermented grain-based concoction with a citrusy tang. This Lithuanian-born holistic health practitioner brought this elixir from her Baltic heritage to our health-conscious world in the middle of the 20th century, and it's been a homemade hit ever since.

Here's the low-down: you sprout any grain — wheat berries, barley, buckwheat, or even quinoa — soak it overnight, rinse, blend with fresh water, and let it ferment for a few days. The result? A rejuvenating drink packed with enzymes, and unlike many fermented drinks, rejuvelac is virtually alcohol-free, with only trace amounts you'd find in other lacto ferments (i.e., sauerkraut). It is great at acting as a digestive tonic or a natural laxative. Serve it up in shot glasses before or between meals, and you're on your way to a healthier day. It's a versatile little number, too, used as a starter for fermented vegan cheese alternatives.

Root beer

Root beer, that all-American effervescent drink, is a descendant of the "small beer" brewing practices of Native Americans. Don't let the "beer" moniker throw you off; it's as sober as a judge. Moreover, the original purpose of root beer was to serve as a medicinal tonic. Concocted by a Philadelphia pharmacist, Charles Elmer Hires, the 19th-century brew was a DIY dry mix that morphed into fizzy goodness when mixed with water, sugar, and yeast. But why "root beer"? Well, it's a brilliant marketing ploy. Hires knew "root tea" wouldn't cut it for Pennsylvanian blue-collar workers. So, he slapped on a name they could relate to.

The original recipe was a veritable potpourri of 25 plants, with sassafras and wintergreen dominating the flavor profile. However, the recipe had to evolve due to the FDA's ban on safrole. So, in today's root beer, wintergreen and vanilla take the lead, while licorice, ginger, anise, and others play supporting roles.


With a tongue-twisting pronunciation of "shal-gum," this fascinating beverage is a Turkish specialty, literally translating to "turnip" in English. But hold your horses — it's not always the star ingredient. The main cast includes black carrot, bulgur flour, salt, sourdough, and water, with an optional cameo of turnip or red beet. The carrot dons the drink with an alluring dark hue, thanks to its anthocyanins, while the lactic acid from fermentation imparts a characteristic sour note. Some recipes even call for bread or sourdough as a fermentation catalyst. This process, steeped in tradition, can span anywhere between 10 and 30 days, resulting in a vibrant, tangy beverage.

Customarily, ice cold şalgam finds its place next to delectable kebab dishes and lahmacun, a spicy Turkish flatbread begging to be tried. Some dedicated patrons swear by its ability to counteract the effects of Raki, Turkey's national liquor, making it an excellent chaser.


Imagine a refreshing punch that doubles as a dessert. That's sikhye for you, a sweet fermented rice punch hailing from Korea that you've probably never thought to order but absolutely should. You can think of it as Korea's answer to amazake, with its own unique malted sweetness. Traditionally, it was a digestive aid after royal meals in the olden days and a customary beverage during holidays, following hearty feasts. Despite its winter origins, sikhye has transformed into a year-round thirst quencher, popular after a good sweat in a Korean sauna.

Curious to make it at home? Consider using a pressure cooker. Start by pouring malt water over cooked rice, let it seep until 7-10 grains float up, then carefully strain and simmer until sweet. If you prefer it with rice grains, call it sikhye. Without? That's gamju. Either way, remember to top it with crushed pine nuts before serving, and enjoy!


Let's face it: Tepache is having a moment. This past summer, everyone wanted to know how to ferment this boozy Mexican drink at home. It may sound like a trendy, modern cocktail, but it's not. Tepache is as old as time, with its roots firmly planted in the pre-colonial era. The early versions of tepache were likely crafted by the Nahua or the Mayans, who considered it a sacred beverage. The original recipe called for maize, giving tepache its moniker, which means "crushed corn drink." But with the development of trade routes, pineapple usurped corn as the base ingredient.

Today, a basic tepache recipe is a symphony of pineapple, cinnamon, and panela — a type of sugar popular in Central and South America. Tepache proudly uses the pineapple's rind and core to eliminate waste and impart a unique flavor. After a few days of fermentation, wild yeasts bestow a tropical, funky fizz that leaves your palate craving more.


Tejuino, a child of ancient fermentation traditions, is another fermented wonder hailing from Mexico. Born in pre-Conquista times, this drink is an ingenious creation of the ancient Nahua people, akin to their other brainchild, tepache. It unfurls the tale of a time when corn was revered as "the food of the gods," and so, fittingly, tejuino is often hailed as "the drink of the gods."

To craft this divine concoction, one needs masa harina (corn flour), water, and piloncillo (Mexican brown sugar). A simmering boil and a few days of fermentation later, you get a dark, cloudy, and mushy beverage. Its blend of salty and bitter might not be for everyone, but don't knock it till you've tried it! Its charm is truly unleashed when served with a dash of salt, a spritz of lime, and a crowning glory of lime sorbet, as seen in Guadalajara or roadside stalls in other states.

Water kefir

Ever scratched your head, musing over the difference between dairy and water kefir? Well, the mystery lies in the grains. The kefir grains used are similar (although not interchangeable), but while dairy kefir uses milk, water kefir feeds its grains on plant-based sugar instead of lactose. These aren't the grains you're probably imagining. They're not wheat or rye but a fascinating colony of bacteria and yeast shaped like rock salt crystals. They've got a ton of street names, the most common of which is tibicos. Their origin is a bit murky: Some suggest they sprouted up from the pads of the Opuntia cactus in Mexico.

Taste-wise? Think of a lighter, less acidic kombucha, and you've got it. Water kefir hits the palate with a sweet, delicate flavor. Experimenting with flavorings like fruit, herbs, and ginger can add an exciting dimension to your homemade brew. Unlike its dairy counterpart, fruit kefir is completely vegan-approved and safe to make at home.