Before the arrival of soft drinks and other sugary, carbonated and energy drinks, Mexico had a culture of traditional beverages. Far from sodas, these are old concoctions (some dating back to Mesoamerican times) that have survived the test of time and modern imports. Refreshing, tasty, and unique to Mexico, here are five beverages everyone should taste and get to know.
Tepache is a fermented beverage with a very low alcohol content that is sold in various parts of CDMX. It is made with pineapple and piloncillo (unrefined cane sugar), which are left to ferment until they create a dark liquid with a sweet aroma and a deliciously sour aftertaste. Commonly used as an example in chemistry classes to explain the fermentation process, tepache is a tradition that refuses to die. Perfect to enjoy alongside tacos and other fried snacks, you’ll see it being sold from bicycles on the streets of the capital.
Aguas frescas and juices
Where there are juices, there are almost always aguas frescas, and vice versa. And, truth be told, in Mexico these drinks are an art form that continues to evolve each day. They offer remedies for fighting the flu to burning fat. Aguas frescas, literally ‘fresh water,” are a concept closely linked to Mexican cuisine and the abundance of ingredients available. Any fruit, nut, grain can be blended with water to serve up a refreshing and nutritious treat. My personal favorite – watermelon with lemon (blended with skin and all) and mint.
Anyone who has visited Oaxaca may already know this pre-Hispanic drink, which is impressively refreshing and nutritious, although it might not seem so at first. It is made from corn, cocoa, and mamey pit, as well as other ingredients that vary depending on the region. It is light-bodied and served over ice, perfect for rehydrating after a long day in the sun.
Atole is undoubtedly the most well-known traditional beverage in Mexico. The name comes from Nahuatl, meaning watery, and its presence is mandatory alongside tamales. It is made by cooking corn in water sweetened with piloncillo or sugar. Although its best-known version is champurrado (with chocolate and cinnamon), the options for flavoring an atole are endless – vanilla, strawberry, mamey, walnut, and just about any other fruit or nut you can find in Mexico.
Although relatively unknown, chilate is a drink that, once you’ve tried, you’ll want it again and again. Typical of the coasts of Guerrero, the most common ingredients are ground cocoa, cinnamon, sugar, and rice. After roasting the cocoa, it is ground along with the rice and dissolved in ice water. To achieve its characteristic foam, it is served by pouring the liquid from a height of more than 50 cm. Though it may not seem like it, it’s not heavy and filling, but rather light and refreshing.