Mix Tepache And Bourbon For A Bold, Sweet And Sour Drink

If you're in the market for a new trick to spice up your cocktail life, try bourbon and tepache. Tepache is a type of agua fresca that's been a part of Mexican drink culture since before Christopher Columbus arrived. The word tepache comes from the Nahuatl word for corn, tapiatl, because corn was initially used as the base ingredient. These days, tepache is made from fermented pineapple juice — making it one of the few alcoholic agua frescas around. The pineapple juice is mixed with cloves, cinnamon, and brown sugar for a truly spicy-sweet treat.

The easiest way to mix bourbon and tepache would be to treat it like a mixed drink, the same way you would make a Jack and Coke or a gin and tonic. This will be similar in flavor to a whiskey sour, only now with a tropical twist. Bourbon is sweet with notes of wood spice from the oak. The warm spice of the bourbon is going to pair well with the cinnamon and clove from the tepache. But these spice notes aren't dominant, they act in a supporting role to the sweetness of the pineapple. If you've ever had a whiskey sour, you know how well citrus and bourbon go together.

A match made in Arizona

Pairing bourbon with tepache was popularized by the Tucson, Arizona restaurant Penca with their aptly named Bourbon and Tepache cocktail. This drink goes beyond the mixed drink, beyond even the whiskey sour, to find itself hovering at the border of a tiki cocktail. Of course, bourbon and tepache are the main ingredients but the drink uses velvet falernum, sweet vermouth, lemon juice, and a splash of pineapple macerated white wine vinegar. Velvet falernum, for those of you who don't know, is a Caribbean liqueur that reigns as the king of all things tropical. You won't find a tiki bar in the world that doesn't have plenty of bottles in stock.

The combination of ingredients here elevates the simple bourbon and tepache mixed drink to new heights. It does a great job of emphasizing the bright tropical notes while also tethering the drink to the more familiar whiskey sour family. 

For either the mixed drink or the cocktail, don't bother using a high quality bourbon. The flavors of the tepache are going to overpower many of the subtleties that make good bourbon stand out, making the extra cost not worth it. Penca recommends Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond, but you can just as easily use a cheaper alternative like Maker's Mark or Bulleit instead.