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Welcome to a captivating exploration of typical Peruvian beverages, where every sip unveils the nation’s distinct flavours and cultural legacy.
Dive into the intriguing history of the iconic Pisco Sour, savour the refreshing Chilcano, and uncover an enticing array of drinks that define Peru’s exceptional drinking culture. From traditional favourites like mate de coca to innovative craft beers, this blog invites you to indulge in the must-try libations that embody the diverse spirit of Peru.
Are you ready to discover the best traditional Peruvian drinks that you should try on your travels? Having spent 2 months slowly exploring the country, here are a few of my ‘mejores bebidas (best drinks). Salud!
Traditional Peruvian Drinks – Alcoholic
Pisco Sour, Peru’s iconic tipple, embodies a unique blend of sharp tanginess and sweetness, transforming from a cloudlike foam to an icy chill. Rooted in Lima’s Morris Bar in the early 20th century, its modern evolution, attributed to bartender Mario Bruige in the late 1920s, added Angostura bitters and egg white to the Pisco brandy base.
With Pisco’s origins tracing back to Spanish conquistadores and grape distillation, Peru proudly claims the drink as its own, despite Chilean contention. Celebrated annually on the first Saturday of February, Pisco Sour remains a cherished Peruvian symbol and a tourist must-try.
I was told by a Peruvian guy that “a Pisco a day, keeps the doctor away!” So, who am I to argue?
Chilcano, a beloved Peruvian cocktail, offers a refreshing twist to enjoying Pisco. Originating in homes during the 1930s, it was initially called Buongiorno, a mix of grappa and Ginger Ale enjoyed by Italian migrants.
As the cocktail gained popularity, Pisco replaced grappa, leading to its widespread acceptance. Today, Chilcano combines Pisco, ginger ale, lime juice, and a dash of bitters, to create a simple and zesty drink, that is a national favourite.
Chicha de Jora
Chicha de Jora, a traditional Peruvian beverage holds immense cultural significance in the Andean region. This corn-based fermented beer has been a part of religious ceremonies since pre-Inca civilisations, and it was offered to gods and ancestors in lavish gold cups.
This Peruvian drink is commonly served in markets and is often homemade with each region adding unique ingredients. Indeed, among Andean communities, there’s a belief that regularly consuming Chicha de Jora contributes to strength and vitality.
Chicha de Jora, characterised by its sour and earthy flavour, may not appeal to everyone’s palate (including mine), but it undeniably holds a special place in honouring Andean culture and indigenous brewing traditions in Peru.
In Peru, Cristal, Cusqueña, and Pilsen Callao stand out as the most popular beers. As a connoisseur of Porter craft beers, Cusqueña Negra takes the lead for its delightful malty notes, complemented by hints of nuts and cocoa.
Peru’s craft beer scene, represented by breweries like Sierra Andina, Raymi, Barbarian, and Cumbres, offers a diverse range beyond traditional styles. While wheat, lager, and IPA varieties are available, it’s the inventive use of unique ingredients like quinoa, Peruvian corn, fruits, and coca leaves that distinguishes Peruvian craft beers.
Peru, often overshadowed by its South American counterparts like Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay, is a hidden gem in the world of wine. Surprisingly, it stands as the oldest wine-producing country in South America.
The country’s wine-making tradition dates back to the 16th century when Spanish Conqueror Marquis Francisco de Caravantes introduced wine grapes. Despite challenges during colonial times, Peruvians persevered and perfected their techniques.
Peru’s Ica Valley, with its arid desert and coastal climate, creates an ideal environment for grape cultivation. Renowned for its unique terroir, Peruvian wines express a distinctive character, combining ancient winemaking traditions with modern techniques to produce an increasingly recognised selection.
During my visit to the Ica region, I spent the afternoon on a Peruvian wine tasting tour at Tacama, one of South America’s oldest vineyards. The experience highlighted its noteworthy offerings of Peruvian wine, rivalling those of celebrated neighbours.
Typical Peruvian Drinks – Non-Alcoholic
Mate de Coca
Mate de Coca is a traditional Andean tea made from the leaves of the coca plant.
Popular in South America, especially in high-altitude regions of Peru and Bolivia, it offers a herbal and somewhat bitter flavour. Considered a mild stimulant, coca tea has been used since Incan times for medicinal purposes such as gastrointestinal ailments and motion or altitude sickness.
Many locals will chew on the coca leaves to suppress hunger, thirst, pain, and fatigue which is all completely legal. Mate de Coca is also a popular way to consume coca in Peru. Commonly, hotels provide coca leaves for tourists, and cafes offer authentic mate de coca by steeping the leaves in boiling water.
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Wild Muña Tea
Muna tea, derived from the Andean Mint or muña (Quechua name), is a traditional herbal infusion cherished in Peru. Known for its minty flavour with citrus undertones, it makes a refreshing hot drink that keeps you warm and healthy.
Revered in Andean folk medicine, it is said to alleviate digestive cramping or diarrhoea, muscle spasms and respiratory illnesses, to name a few. It is renowned for its potential to alleviate symptoms of altitude sickness, including headaches, nausea, and fatigue.
Another use of wild muña on an Andean altitude trail is to rub it together in your palms and inhale the minty fumes to open up the airways to assist with breathing along the trek. It works wonders, believe me!
Chicha Morada is a vibrant Peruvian beverage crafted from purple corn, fruits, spices, and lime. Popular for its sweet and slightly tart taste, it’s often enjoyed chilled. Beyond its refreshing nature, Chicha Morada is valued for its potential health benefits and is deeply ingrained in Peruvian culinary culture.
Historically, Chicha Morada dates back to pre-Incan times and was used in rituals and ceremonies where it was offered to the gods.
Whilst Chicha Morada originates in the Andean regions of Perú, it has, quite rightly, evolved into a popular national drink. This thirst-quencher can be found in markets, sold by street sellers, or in the finest of restaurants.
The drink tastes a little of berries but can be enriched with ripe pineapple and lemon, adding layers to its taste. I happily took the chance to try Peruvian drinks such as Chicha Morada on my travels.
Inka Cola, a popular Peruvian soft drink, is also known as “the Golden Kola” for obvious reasons. The distinct bubblegum-like flavour reminded me of the infamous Scottish drink Irn Bru.
This beloved golden soda was created in Peru in 1935 by British immigrant Joseph Robinson Lindley, and has since become a cultural icon, outselling major international cola brands in Peru. Its unique taste has earned it a dedicated fan base.
Emoliente, a popular Peruvian herbal beverage, from the Andean region, is made by brewing a combination of various herbs, grains, and seeds, which can include ingredients like barley, flaxseed, horsetail, alfalfa, and others.
The resulting herbal infusion is renowned for its digestive properties and serves as a remedy for ailments, integral to indigenous healing practices. Emoliente is commonly served hot and is sometimes sweetened with honey or flavoured with lime. It’s considered a comforting and nourishing drink, especially during colder weather.
Leche de Tigre
Leche de Tigre, a Peruvian ceviche variation, features raw fish cured in vibrant tiger’s milk—a zesty marinade of lime juice, chilies, and aromatic herbs—it boasts a bold and tangy flavour.
Peruvians love their ceviche so why not get your fill by drinking the ceviche juice? I was happy to enjoy the leche-de-tigre in my ceviche instead of a glass, personally!
Lúcuma is one of the much-loved fruits native to the Andes. The Incas, recognising its value, dubbed dried lucuma as the “gold of the Incas,” highlighting its natural sweetening properties.
The meaty-type flesh of the lucuma tastes sweet like toffee or butterscotch and sweet potato with undertones of maple syrup or caramel. Used as a base in many Peruvian desserts and smoothies, lúcuma is celebrated not only for its taste but also as a rich source of fibre, good carbohydrates, and antioxidants.
Lucuma milkshakes (or batidos) can be mixed with milk, yoghurt or ice cream. One of the best Peruvian drinks that’s well worth experiencing on your travels!Top of Form
Limonada Peruana, a distinct twist on traditional lemonade, showcases Peru’s unique limes, known as “limón sutil.” These limes are smaller and less acidic, imparting a milder and subtly sweet flavour.
Enhance your limonada in Peru by infusing it with flavors from local plants or fruits like mint, lemongrass, or passion fruit. Reflecting Peru’s rich agricultural history, this drink epitomises culinary diversity. Whatever addition you choose promises a taste sensation.
Handy Links To Visit Peru
Here are some useful links for your trip to Peru to help you find tours, and places to stay. These are companies I have used and can recommend with confidence.
Accommodation In Peru
Tours In Peru
FAQs Peruvian Drinks
What is the national drink of Peru?
The national drink of Peru is the renowned Pisco Sour, a classic cocktail made with Pisco, lime juice, simple syrup, and egg white.
What is the best-selling drink in Peru?
Inca Kola is the best-selling drink in Peru, famed for its gold appearance, sweet flavour, and cultural significance, surpassing even cola giants.
What was the Incan alcoholic drink?
Chicha, a fermented beverage made from maize, was the traditional Incan alcoholic drink, central to social and ceremonial occasions.
PIN TO LEARN ABOUT TYPICAL PERUVIAN DRINKS
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