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Peruvian drinks

Peru has an impressive variety of special drinks. The drinks reflect the local customs, history and special ingredients such as herbs, fruit, corn. One of the most famous Peruvian drinks is Pisco Sour, but there is a lot more. Read more about the most popular alcoholic and non-alcoholic Peruvian drinks

Beer

There are three major brands of beer in Peru: Cristal, Cusqueña and Pilsen Callao. Cristal is the most popular one and Pilsen Callao is the oldest, brewed in 1863.  

The traditional Peruvian way of drinking is sharing: drinkers gather in a rough circle and the beer arrives in a 650 ml glass bottle, the "pitcher", accompanied by a small, solitary glass. This single glass is to be shared among the group. This style of drinking is a highly sociable, often community-orientated process. The passing of beer and glass from one person to the next is a simple act of sharing, emphasizing the unity between the drinkers.

Chicha de jora

This is a fermented corn beer, made of corn kernels that are sun-dried and ground. Traditionally, it was used in cultural ceremonies. Even today, Peruvians sprinkle some chicha to ‘mother earth’ from the communal cup when they sit down together to drink. The cup is then passed around in accordance with the order of each drinker's social status, as an unending succession of toasts are offered. Today it still is a popular drink and it also is used in stews.

Some archaeologists say that chica dates back to 900 BC, but there is the quite nice legend about the birth of chicha de jora: in the time of Inca Tupac Yupanqui, a piece of land was dedicated to cultivating corn. One harvest season, a major rainstorm destroyed all the corn. The Inca ordered that the corn could not be used and so it was set aside. But one of the locals became so hungry that he ate the abandoned corn, which at this point had been fermenting for some time. Shortly after he was quite drunk and the preferred drink, chicha de jora, was born. 

Chicha morada

This is lemonade made of deep purple corn, cinnamon, fruit and cloves. In Peru, it is so popular that people consume it as much as Coca Cola. There is archaeological evidence of chicha morada consumption in 3000-2500 BC. With the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores, spices such as cinnamon and cloves were added to the recipe, as the recipe previously consisted of just purple corn and pineapple. In October, the Peruvian 'purple month' people combine chicha morada with the famous anticuchos and picarones. My most favourite lemonade ever!

Emoliente

This drink is a warm winter drink sold on the street. It consists of a mix of herbs, which varies as it is selected by the person preparing it. The taste of the drink is fruity. As a general rule, what is should contain is :toasted barley, flax seeds, dried horse tail, dried grass, and plantain leaf. To this one can add as many things as they wish, including aniseed, boldo, lemon verbena, lemongrass, and cat’s claw, a native South American woody vine, consumed for its powerful anti-inflammatory properties.

Though the concept of drinks prepared with barley goes back thousands years, it didn’t come to Peru until the Spanish came. While many people today drink it simply for its warmth, it originally quickly became popular because of its healing properties. In Lima the drink became especially popular and by 1927, with the cooperation of the Japanese community, the first society of “emolienteros,” or emoliente vendors, was formed.

Today, the drink has taken on many other forms, also sold cold and even with alcohol. It still can be found on street vendor carts, but also in cafés and in grocery stores.  

Inca Kola

This most popular soft drink in Peru is intense fluorescent-yellow and has the taste of bubblegum. Inca Kola is the most popular non-alcoholic drink, it even beats Coca Cola! In 1910 an English couple started a small bottling company and shop to sell carbonated drinks. In 1935, on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of Lima's founding, they introduced Inca Kola. The soft drink is based on a combination of thirteen special plant-derived flavours, among other Lemon verbena.

Jugos

Fresh fruit juices you can buy on every corner of the street in restaurants, cafes or on markets. The selection of fruits is endless and goes from normal fruits, such as bananas, papayas, passion fruit and pineapple to the most famous Peruvian fruits, such as lucuma, aguaje, aguaymanto, camu camu, chirimoya, granadilla and much more.

Mate de coca

Coca tea is an herbal infusion made of the raw or dried leaves of the coca plant. People drink the tea against altitude sickness, but it has many more health benefits as it helps against indigestion, fatigue, hyperactivity, frequent colds and infections, obesity, constipation, indigestion, diabetes and those with high cholesterol. Although people in Peru often drink this tea throughout the day, it has potentially addicting qualities and 2 cups per day is the recommended limit. 

Pisco

Pisco is Peru's national white spirit, made of fermented grape juice in the (southern) regions of Lima, Ica, Arequipa, Moquegua and Tacna. For of a regular Peruvian Pisco bottle 8 kilograms of grapes are required. he production of a regular Peruvian Pisco bottle requires 8 kilograms of grapes. There are various types of grapes that are used to produce pisco, so there are official regulations for the types of pisco:

  • Acholado - a blend of various grapes
  • Aromatico - made of the Muscat family of grapes
  • Mosto Verde - distilled from partially fermented grapes
  • Puro - made of one sort of grape

In the Netherlands, most common used are the pisco acholado or pure (quebranta). Both are suitable to make the pisco sour.

The right to use an appellation of origin for pisco is a stiff contest between Peru and Chile, though historians generally believe that pisco originates from Peru. The European Commission also considers that pisco originates from Peru, but does allow the term to be used for products from Chile. Fun fact: 34% of the pisco produced in Peru is exported to Chile.

Pisco sour

It was the expat American Victor Morris who is now widely acknowledged for having invented this delicious concoction in 1916 in Peru. Pisco sour is made with a brandy-like liquor. Originally, it consisted of pisco grape spirits, Peruvian lime juice and sugar syrup. The addition of egg white and a dash of Angostura bitters were innovations added in the 1920s, similar to whiskey sour. The best kinds of piscos to be used for the cocktail are pisco acholado (a mix of various grapes) or pisco quebranta (made of the quebranta grape), both distilled in southern regions of Peru. Pisco sour is an appetizer. Today, pisco chilcano (with ginger ale) and maracuja sour (with passionfruit juice) are very popular. Pisco means little bird in Quechua, maybe because it makes you fly.

Pisco chilcano

This is the second cocktail from Peru. Number one, Pisco Sour, has an aperitif function and Pisco Chilcano has a fundamentally refreshing function. And the other difference is that the origin of Pisco Chilcano is uncertain. Some point out that Italian immigrants drank Buon Giorno, a mix of grappa and ginger ale. So they changed the grappa in Pisco, which led to the Chilcano. Others say the cocktail appeared to have originated in the Chilca Valley which led to its name. A third group thinks that fishermen have named the cocktail, because the taste of the cocktail was very reminiscent of a soup called Chilcano de Pescado. The cocktail contains pisco, lime juice, angostura, ginger ale and ice cubes