The Mexican version of Saint Patrick’s Day, Cinco De Mayo is an adopted holiday chiefly recognized by Caucasian-Americans looking for one more excuse to get drunk in the middle of the week. Hard Frescos, a new beverage concept that sits in the intersection of craft beer and agua fresca, provides one more means of getting there.
The brainchild of food scientist Peter Stearns, these Latino-inspired, American-made beverages ride both sides of the cultural fence, making them an ideal add-on to your Cinco de Mayo soiree (or possibly just your weekday lunch break). After developing an affinity for the fresh-pressed juices and agua frescas he gulped down in Mexico City and elsewhere in Latin America, Stearns took a cue from the craft beer movement and set out to ferment these products using traditional brewing processes.
Hard Frescos are free of preservatives, sulfites, artificial colors, and gluten, and are still pleasantly palatable, with a malty finish that suggests there's a little something more than fruit juice in the bottle. The majority of the ingredients — including tamarind fruit and jamaica (hibiscus flower) — come from Mexico, as do the caps and bottle labels. Each flavor label features a unique animal indigenous to Mexico: Jamaica, for instance, comes adorned with an axolotl, a spiky salamander.
While the beverages are produced to be downed all on their own, they also mix well with spirits. That Jamaica makes for a decently refreshing gin fizz (or “Tammy Collins,” as the company calls it).
"Sometimes, you want to mix drinks for a party and think, 'I don’t have time to buy bitters and light things on fire,' " Stearns says. Hard Frescos was made with these people in mind.
Though he currently brews in Davis, Stearns is looking to open a tasting room in San Francisco in the next couple of months. In the meantime, you can find Hard Frescos mixed and poured at taquerias and eateries throughout the Bay Area, including Loló, Southpaw, and The Hall. Or, you can just as easily buy a four-pack to take home. The product has been available at Whole Foods for close to a year and is debuting in Northern California Costcos this coming weekend as a part of the company's three-day “Cinco De Mayo Costco Road Show.”
Hard Frescos has also landed a gig at a series of upcoming California Academy of Sciences adults-only NightLife events, starting with a Cinco de Mayo launch on May 12, during which they'll discuss the science behind their malted fresh-pressed juices, alongside mezcaleros giving an education on agave. So come get educated, intoxicated, or both.
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