With dozens of mezcals and one of the best cocktail menus in town, Dallas bar Las Almas Rotas isn't short on choices. So it's easy to overlook the bar's homemade tepache, a fermented pineapple drink that's sold at street stalls throughout Mexico.
"Lots of people ask what tepache is, but unless they grew up in a Mexican household, they rarely know it," says bar manager Chris Dempsey.
Here in Dallas, tepache hasn't reached mass adoption, or anything close to it. But a handful of bars and restaurants are serving up the traditional beverage, which is typically sweetened with piloncillo -- a raw, unprocessed cane sugar -- and spiced with cinnamon. Depending on how long it's left to ferment, tepache can develop a mild amount of alcohol. Some bartenders add beer to the mix to boost the alcohol content.
At Las Almas Rotas, they combine hunks of pineapple, peels and all, with a little water, plus cloves, cinnamon, vanilla and piloncillo. The pineapple sits in its own juices for three weeks, eventually beginning to ferment and bubble. The finished product is fruity and funky, with a hint of sourness.
The bar serves tepache by itself, paired with a mezcal shot. It's also poured in a Tepache Sour, a cocktail made with mezcal, strawberry syrup, tepache and aquafaba. (That last one is chickpea water -- literally the liquid inside the can. It simulates egg whites in cocktails, adding a silky texture and frothy head to the drink.)
"Once we put the Tepache Sour up on the featured cocktail board, it went crazy," Dempsey says. And it's easy to see why. The drink goes down quickly, and serves as a gateway cocktail for those new to tepache. Or mezcal. Or aquafaba.
At Resident Taqueria, the little taco shop's tepache was born from a problem: What to do with all those unused pineapple husks and cores? They use pineapple in pork tacos and agua frescas, and now it's also turned into tepache, which sits in a glass vat above the bar.
"Not many people know about it here, but it's very popular in Mexico," says Esteban Garcia, a supervisor at the restaurant. "People will see the batch and ask about it, and the more people we talk to about it, the more who want to try it."
Resident Taqueria doctors its tepache with piloncillo and cinnamon and lets it ferment for up to a week. They serve it straight, which is a reasonable and refreshing option when stopping in for a weekday lunch. But when you've got the opportunity to drink a Tepache Shandy -- a mixture of tepache and Deep Ellum Bombshell Blonde -- it would be foolish not to.
Same goes for the margarita. You can opt for a classic, of course. But a mezcal-spiked version laced with tepache is the way to go here, made more festive with a Tajin rim and pineapple garnish.
Over at Santos y Pecadores, the tiny, two-table mezcaleria tucked into the back of Uptown's Bowen House, barman Daniel Zapata serves his own take on tepache. Rather than the traditional drink, Zapata, who earned a culinary degree in Mexico, has created a richly-flavored syrup from roasted pineapple, apple cider vinegar, raw sugar and cinnamon. The vinegar conjures tepache's familiar sour, fermented note and the syrup acts as a versatile ingredient behind the diminutive bar.
Zapata says the tepache-inspired syrup is a crowd pleaser in non-alcoholic drinks, and he'll often use it to spruce up the refreshing combination of Topo Chico and lime. For those who aren't abstaining, he likes to shake it up with espadin mezcal, Ancho Reyes Verde (a poblano liqueur) and Angostura bitters. Served in a Santa Muerte candle-turned-glass that's rimmed with Tajin, the cocktail is playful and photo-friendly. And ordering one is an effortless segue into asking the affable Zapata about everything from the bar's adornments, which include Luchador masks and Lotería cards, to his cocktails.
"One of the reasons I did this bar is to introduce people to drinks they maybe aren't familiar with," Zapata says.