Fermented beverages are widespread throughout Latin America, with a recent academic document identifying 16 different beverages made in domestic settings using rustic indigenous practices without preservatives. Palm oil, pineapple, corn, and the insides of agave are all fermented to create beverages. Daniel Hernandez, editor of the LA Times tracked down different versions across the county.
Tejuino is made with corn and piloncillo (Mexican brown sugar) to create a mash that begins to ferment. Once it starts to darken, ice is added and it is seasoned with rock salt and lime for a tangy and refreshing drink. A stretch on Rosemead Boulevard through Whittier Narrows is a popular destination for tejuino vendors, but the drink can also be found in South Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley.
Tepache is becoming increasingly recognizable, often sold alongside kombucha. Light and crisp like a cider, Hernandez says the drink is more approachable than tejuino. Canned versions are made by From the Calle, and mixes well with rum, tequila and mezcal. He says the drink is made on Easter by the Oaxaca community in Los Angeles.
Pulche can be polarizing, admits Hernandez. “It’s literally a living drink,” he says, and contains millions per milliliter of microorganisms that immediately begin to interact with the gut. With an alcohol content of up to 7%, it seems that pulche has been made for 2,000 years. Hernandez has yet to find the perfect pulche spot in Los Angeles.