When you finally cross off "visit Tequila, Jalisco to sip freshly distilled tequila and the best margaritas of your life" from your bucket list and find yourself in the beautiful, cobblestone-paved streets of the birthplace of tequila, it won't be the tequila or margaritas that you will remember for the rest of your life.
It will be the magical city's other, lesser known contribution to the world of Mexican libations: the pachecada. It is a humble beer cocktail that is half tejuino (a fermented, lightly effervescent, thick, salty, sour corn beverage that dates back to pre-Hispanic times), and half ice-cold Mexican beer, with about four to five Mexican limes' worth of fresh juice, and a fat pinch of chunky rock salt to round out this beverage's strangely addicting flavor.
For the last 37 years, the refreshing concoction has been a staple beverage in the small, touristy community of Tequila, Jalisco thanks to the genius efforts of one street vendor: Don Marcos Pacheco. He picked up the craft of tejuino-making when he realized that he couldn't make ends meet after he retired. The story goes that one day, Don Pacheco came up with the idea for the beer cocktail when he saw a customer who was painfully hungover, so to help his him out, he carefully mixed in some beer with his tejuino and a new elixir was born. The name of the libation was also suggested to Don Pacecho and stems from his last name.
His pushcart is permanently located in front of the main entrance to Jose Cuervo's Mundo Cuervo attraction, right in the middle of the small, historical town. I stopped by on a Wednesday afternoon and there was a small crowd of people from all backgrounds and classes huddled around the cart. The majority of people were ordering large pachecadas to go, which involves a 12-ounce bottle of Indio—a dark, Mexican beer—and maybe another 12-ounces of tejuino, all swirled until properly mixed together. When I ask Marcos Pacheco Junior why he chooses to use dark beer over a lager, which is usually the obvious choice when it comes to Mexican beer, he answers that dark beer is better to "complement the heartiness of a tejuino."
The flavor of a tejuino is unlike anything you've ever had before. It is technically a nixtamalized masa shake, so it doubles as a snack and a beverage in one. Because it is fermented, however, it is not as heavy as it may seem. Many even praise the drink for its probiotic qualities in settling the stomach. Whether you like it or not, the perfectly balanced but unusual flavor of corn, lime juice, salt, and molasses-like piloncillo (Mexican, unrefined brown sugar) will grow on you.
Add a frosty, dark brew to this unique beverage and you will have a beer cocktail that you will never, ever forget—especially when you find out that it can help you when you're hungover.
The best part?
Don Pacheco's pachecadas are so entrenched in Tequila's culture that the cops just turn a blind eye to this alcoholic libation sold openly in the streets of one of the most beautiful towns in all of Jalisco.
While you aren't likely to find Don Pacheco anymore—he is pushing the ripe old age of 70, after all—you will now find his son and grandson on the very same corner. And under the unforgiving Jalisco sun, you can rest assured that the precisely measured pachecadas taste just as good as ever.