Before Coke, Squirt, and Jarritos became ubiquitous, Mexico's thirsty could cool themselves with a variety of regional rustic drinks. In the state of Jalisco, that included the lightly fermented beverage called tejuino. Fruitvale artisan ice cream maker Luis Abundis still makes it the way his uncle taught him, long ago, at the family sweets shop in a little pueblo near Guadalajara. Abundis takes corn masa — the kind used for tortillas — thins it with water and adds pulverized piloncillo, the molasses-y raw sugar that comes in cones. The mixture's left out at room temperature for a day or more to ferment slightly. Then, to order, Abundis ladles some of the pale, milky coffee-colored mixture over ice, squeezes in a bit of lime juice, and voila, tejuino: a tangy, refreshing cooler with the prickle and slightly earthy funk of fermentation. Unlike Coca-Cola, tejuino is variable, depending on how long the masa mix has been fermenting. We've had Abundis's tejuino when it's been almost as mild as horchata and as strong as an opened can of peach nectar left too long in the fridge, a variability that only adds to the drink's charm.
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