Updated January 28th, 2021.
It is no secret that Peruvian food is some of the best in the world. Understandably too, the country boasts a whole array of exciting ingredients and a melting pot of cultures. However, what is rarely spoken about is how to accompany these mouthwatering dishes. The focus might be on cuisine but it is true that Peruvian drinks deserve a slice of the glory too. After all, how many countries have a soft drink which outsells Coca Cola?!
The drinks in Peru are far more than just beverages. Each comes with its own interesting history which can reveal plenty about Peruvian culture. In this post, we’ll cover everything from the famous Pisco Sour to everybody’s favourite Andean staple, coca tea. Whether you’re a beer lover, a cocktail sipper or a tee-total kind of guy, you’ll find the Peruvian drink to suit you here!
Top 11 Peruvian Drinks!
Peruvian Soft Drinks
1. Inca Kola
Introducing ‘el sabor del Peru’ (that’s ‘the taste of Peru’ for anyone who needs to brush up on their Spanish). Created in the country in 1935, this fizzy drink is known for its glowing yellow colour and bubblegum taste. It is also a surprising source of national pride in Peru.
Hajime Kasuga, one of Peru’s celebrity chefs has gone as far as to say, “Inca Kola runs through the veins of Peruvian babies. That is not an exaggeration.” The soda is a popular accompaniment to many different Peruvian dishes, including the classic Pollo a la Brasa.
It is the country’s most popular soft drink, outselling fizzy drink giant Coca Cola for years. Eventually, sick of being beaten, Coca Cola decided to buy 50% of Inca Kola’s shares for $200 million dollars. Well played Inca Kola, well played.
2. Chicha Morada
Made from purple corn (maiz morada) which is unique to the country, this traditional Peruvian drink is a hugely popular almuerzo accompaniment. Chicha morada is made by boiling purple corn, along with cinnamon, cloves, sugar and pineapple skin. It has a hint of mulled wine taste about it.
You will usually find chica morada being boiled up in big vats, either on the side of the road or in small local restaurants. It is readily available in Peruvian supermarkets too, although there it is sold in bottles.
This sweet drink is most known for its supposed health benefits which include lowering the blood pressure and reducing the risk of heart disease. Added bonus!
Commonly sold along the streets of Lima, emoliente is a kind of herbal tea which is especially popular during the winter months. This is because it is generally served warm, although it can be drunk cold too.
Emoliente contains a mix of herbs which consist of linseeds, barley, alfalfa sprouts, plantain leaves and dried horsetails. The Peruvian people believe it to be a healing drink with medicinal powers. It has antioxidant properties and is also great for digestion. If you’ve had a heavy night out, this is the best drink in Peru for a hangover!
The drink has a very unique taste so be prepared for something which challenges the norm. It has a slimy kind of texture but also tastes fruity at the same time.
4. Mate de Coca
One of South America’s top drinks to try is the famous mate de coca, also known as coca tea. It is traditionally consumed in the Andes Mountain Range and whilst it is enjoyed in Peru, it is also drunk in Bolivia, Colombia and Ecuador. The tea has a somewhat bitter flavour, a little like green tea.
This herbal tea is made using the leaves of the coca plant (also one of the raw ingredients needed to make cocaine). For this reason, it is illegal to take the leaves, whether they are in a teabag or another form, home with you. The penalties for doing so are severe. Bringing in coca products is often treated the same as any other kind of drug smuggling.
Mate de coca has long believed to help with the symptoms of altitude sickness. This is because the leaves contain alkaloids which enhance your physical performance, especially at high altitude. Be warned though, even one cup of coca tea can make you test positive for cocaine in a drugs test.
It is Peru’s most famous drink, the popular grape brandy pisco. This colourless or amber spirit can be drunk neat or used as a base for many cocktails (we’ll be discussing the best of these later)! There is an ongoing argument between Peru and neighbour Chile about who discovered pisco. Both countries claim that the spirit is their national drink.
The grapes used to make pisco must be of a certain variety. These are then fermented into wine before being distilled. In many pisco making areas such as Ica, it is possible to tour a pisco factory to see how the drink is made. We did just this on our visit to Tacama winery.
The Peruvians love pisco so much that they have previously celebrated Peru’s Independence Day by filling the fountain in Plaza de Armas, Lima with pisco. Imagine if they did that in with gin in London?! It would be debauchery!
6. Pisco Sour
Possibly the most famous cocktail in the country, the pisco sour is Peru’s national drink. It is traditionally paired with ceviche for an authentic Peruvian experience! The base for the cocktail is pisco and egg white, lime juice and sugar is added. We learnt to make this Peruvian cocktail in our cooking class at Cusco Culinary. It was easier than we expected!
The pisco sour cocktail is very refreshing to drink and the bitterness of the lime compliments the sweetness of the sugar beautifully. The limes used in the cocktail are a specific Peruvian fruit and taste sourer than their European counterparts. Be warned, this drink is very moreish and too many can leave you feeling a little tender the next day!
Peruvians love the pisco sour so much that there is actually a day dedicated to it. National Pisco Sour Day is celebrated every year on the first Saturday in February. If you can time your visit right, you’ll be able to join in the parties all around the country in honour of the national drink!
Another pisco based cocktail, this time mixed with lime juice and ginger ale. The chilcano cocktail is slightly weaker than the pisco sour but it offers a similarly refreshing taste, albeit less sweet. Although it has always been overshadowed by its brother, the pisco sour, the chilcano is growing in popularity and now found in restaurants and bars all over the country.
Never ones to skimp out on a party, the Peruvians also hold an annual festival in honour of chilcano. Known as ‘semana de chilcano’, this celebration happens during the middle of January and lasts 11 days.
There are many twists on the traditional chilcano and it is not unusual to be served the drink with fresh South American fruits in it, such as lucuma and maracuya (passionfruit).
This creamy cocktail may be considered feminine because of its sweet taste but it is one Peruvian drink you don’t want to miss! Its defining ingredient is Algarrobina, a thick syrup which comes from the Algarrobo tree (also known as the Tree of Life). It is this that gives the drink its caramel flavour.
Algarrobina is then mixed with pisco, evaporated milk and egg yolk before being sprinkled with cinnamon. Traditionally this Peruvian cocktail is consumed around Christmas time, sort of like a South American eggnog.
The drink is served cold and frothy. And we all know it wouldn’t be a Peruvian cocktail without a day in its honour! Algarrobina Day is celebrated on March 15th.
9. Chicha de Jora
Dating back to the Inca times, chicha de jora is a popular Peruvian beer from the Andes. The drink gets its name from the yellow jora corn which it is made with. Unlike chicha morada which has already made this list, the yellow corn is fermented meaning that this drink has a kick (and should not be consumed whilst driving)!
Traditionally drank at festivals and celebrations, you can commonly find chicha de jora in many of the small villages around the Sacred Valley. The beer is a pale yellow kind of colour with a thick foam and tastes a little sour. Some liken the flavour to apple cider but this is still a way off how it actually tastes.
The first portion of the beer is always sacrificed to the ground as an offering to Pachamama (Mother of the Earth). During this offering, you should say the words, “Pachamama, santa tierra.” This translates to ‘Mother Earth, holy ground.’
Along with Pilsen Callao and Cristal, Cusqueña is one of the leading beer brands in Peru. Many regions pride themselves on their own range of beers, such as Arequipeña from Arequipa, Pilsen Trujillo from Trujillo and Cusqueña from… yep, you guessed it… Cusco!
Cusqueña produce a few different types of beer so you are sure to find something that tickles your fancy! Most popular is ‘Dorado’, a golden lager but there is also ‘Negra’, a dark beer, ‘Roja’, a fruity beer and my personal favourite, ‘Trigo’, a wheat beer.
Although easiest to find in the south of the country, it is possible to buy Cusqueña in most major cities. Look out for the iconic Machu Picchu emblem on the labels.
This bright pink drink is another version of chicha de jora, except that it is made with sugar and strawberries from Urubamba. As you would expect, it is a lot sweeter than chicha de jora. The drink is commonly consumed in Cusco, usually between November and January.
Frutillada (also known as chicha de frutilla) has a long history in Peru and it was originally served in large pottery cups. Nowadays the drink is served in large glasses, known as caporales. Every glass should have a whole strawberry hiding at the bottom!
Have we missed off your favourite Peruvian drink from our list? Let us know in our Facebook community!