To make tepache, the classic pineapple agua fresca, Chef Demetriek Scott brews up to 6 fresh-chopped pineapples in water infused with cinnamon and a touch of sugar. He first heard about tepache from a Brazilian chef, but derived the recipe on his own. It's a masterful balance of spice, sweet and sour. He serves it by the glass at Nola Foods, the Tremé eatery he opened a few weeks ago.
I thought Chef Demetriek's tepache could be the base of a great cocktail (in Mexico, it's taken with beer). But Nola Foods has no liquor license yet, so I'd have to bring my own spirits to the party. Tepache's juicy, sunny nature lends it to tiki, but I didn't want to drag 15 bottles around. I could've made a margarita, but I've been drinking a lot of them lately.
Instead, I took my cues from a pineapple-based cocktail (created here) calling for Campari, an Italian bitter liqueur. Campari's aggressive citrus reins in tepache's sweetness, and its warm spice works really well with tepache's cinnamon. Vanilla Stoli rounds it all out, and a dash of club soda keeps the agua fresca's light, thirst-quenching quality.
I played around with the proportions; this worked out to be approachable and refreshing, with a touch of bitters on the end:
2 ounces Nola Foods tepache
1.5 ounce Stoli vanilla
0.5 ounce Campari
0.5 ounce lemon juice
Shake together with ice, strain and top with club soda.
Want to mix cocktails at your favorite BYOB joint?
Pack juice. Rouses sells $2 narrow plastic flasks, perfect for lime or lemon juices.
Do some recon. If you have a base drink in mind, ask the restaurant what goes into it - probably more sugar than you think.
Don't get hung up…on things like glassware, garnishes, or even proper method (if I ever bring myself to shake a BYOB drink, I'd step outside the restaurant to do it - otherwise, I'm stirring).
Chef Demetriek is a Delgado graduate, with kitchen cred at the Windsor Court's Grill Room and the Hotel Monteleone; as the owner of Nola Foods, he turns out made-to-order crisp, whole-wheat breakfast wraps, cool little quiches stuffed with house-smoked jerk chicken, and single slices of banana coffee cake and plush white chocolate bread pudding. Nola Foods is located at 2000 Dumaine Street and open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.