Crisp, light, refreshing are some words to describe this beverage. It’s very pleasant on a hot 95-degree day. Tepache is what it’s called, Tepache Gold is the brand. Co-owner Jorge Cruz (you can’t miss his face on the can) is more than happy to share this bubbly tradition with me.
Tepache might remind you of kombucha, in the way of the bubbles and probiotics (which is good for the gut). But tepache is a unique drink of its own, rooted in Mexican culture and tradition. Tepache Gold is how Cruz learned to make it, through generations, from his grandma and his mother as well. Every family has a different way of making tepache. Cruz is from Puebla, Mexico where tepache is a popular drink of choice. Mexicans drink tepache on hot days to cool down, kids get it after school, and street vendors are stocked with it.
It wasn’t until the pandemic and meeting Eric “Lefty” Lefcowitz, that Cruz thought of turning his grandma’s homemade tepache recipe into a business. The pandemic shifted his priorities and made him think what’s next? What is he doing? The same happened with partner Lefcowitz who felt centered being involved with “something that has roots and tradition.”
Cruz and Lefcowitz met through a mutual friend, Michael, who was throwing a little backyard shindig in 2021 when things finally felt safe enough for one. They were both helping Michael cut up fruit, and one of those fruits happened to be pineapple. The conversation turned to making tepache which Lefcowitz never tried before.
Cruz and Lefcowitz took the leftover pineapple and met up the next day at Lefcowitz’s apartment to let it ferment in a bucket for five days. They realized that they couldn’t just bottle it up and sell it easily, They needed to work with a Brooklyn-based cannery and formulate the recipe which they did. From there they’ve been following their “gut instinct.”
Tepache Gold, a play on the phrase liquid gold and the orange gold hue of the drink, is something that was “founded and forged in friendship,” in the words of Lefcowitz. Tepache Gold comes in three flavors as of right now. There’s the traditional flavor, spicy mango, and wellness blend (“the cult favorite”). All three are very distinct and made from a blend of 100% organic spices and cane sugar except for the wellness blend, which uses agave. Cruz and Lefcowitz mentioned they are staying true to the roots of tepache by not using artificial ingredients.
It’s been a year since the two met and so far Tepache Gold is being sold in over 60 stores (and online). Every reorder and sale they do is exciting. Most importantly, it is being sold in Greenpoint in 11 locations, such as Greenpot, Park Bar and La Norteña, just to name a few. Both Cruz and Lefcowitz live in Greenpoint, and they take pride in Tepache Gold being Greenpoint-based and made.
The response from Greenpoint has been positive which they are grateful for. Their first demo of Tepache Gold at Crunch was a success. Someone went and bought two cases after.
“I’ve always been a community type of person. The reason I live in Greenpoint is because actually, there’s a strong sense of community in this neighborhood. And, it’s like a small village, you get to know a lot of people, you go to different places, you run into the same people… So that’s not different from making the tepache, which would be also a way to connect with people, a way to strengthen the community,” said Cruz.
Cruz likes bringing the community together through events like open mics, poetry readings, etc; he is big on using art to bring people together. Cruz also works at a saxophone shop. Lefcowitz currently owns and runs a New York-based specialty foods company called Retrofuture Products. While they have other jobs, they work on continuing to build Tepache Gold. Lefcowitz believes in Jorge and this dream and is happy to help it come to fruition.
“To me, we’re telling a story. And tepache is the star of the story. We’re hoping to make the story something bigger, that everybody can relate to, so everybody can come to it. And it’s not about me as an individual so much as bringing a cultural tradition to New York,” said Lefcowitz, who has written several books.
Cruz feels his grandma, who passed 20 years ago, would be proud and see Tepache Gold as an accomplishment. This business means so much to him; it’s affirming his culture and his traditions, which he is happy to bring to Greenpoint and New York, and then hopefully the rest of the world.
“I always invite people [to] come back to Mexico but if they cannot go back to Mexico this moment, why not bring Mexico to New York? Every bit that you can bring in and share it with people. And that’s one of my objectives to share my traditions with everybody who’s willing to partake,” said Cruz
While they both are focusing on the right now and trying to not stress about the future. They hope to take off and continue to grow with more flavors and be available everywhere. They would love to have a signature cocktail made. Lefcowitz stated that if anyone comes up with any cool cocktails with their drink, they will post it on their website (so get mixing folks).
It’s also more than just money (which these guys have invested in this business)— it’s about people appreciating and enjoying what they have created. Tepache Gold has not always been easy but Cruz said “anything worth doing in life entails sacrifice and hard work.”
So, North Brooklyn, go experience a slice of Mexico and Puebla here in NYC and try Tepache Gold — you might have a favorite new drink.