Just as Peru is a land of diverse and delicious cuisines, the country also boasts a wide variety of characteristic beverages for you to try during your trip. From the official national cocktail, to ancient indigenous concoctions, to burgeoning craft beer scenes in Lima and Cusco, there are tons of Peruvian drinks that might tickle your fancy.
If you're headed to Machu Picchu or even trekking the Inca Trail, you may or may not pass through Lima on the way. Surely, though, you'll be spending some time in Cusco. One of the country's most vibrant cities, Cusco combines a degree of urban sophistication with the most traditional aspects of Andean highland culture. What this means is that not only is it home to some of the best places to eat in Peru, but you're also sure to find every drink on our list within the city, and so, if you want, you'll have the opportunity to try them all.
Though covered in another article, we're going to give an honorary #1 spot to Inca Kola, Peru's iconic soft drink. Now that that's out of the way, let's continue with the rest of our list:
1. Inca Kola
2. Pisco Sour
Image appears courtesy of www.travelandescape.ca.
The Pisco Sour is Peru's national cocktail. And that isn't a figure of speech to express how popular the drink is, we mean it literally! In fact, Pisco Sour Day is celebrated annually in Peru on the first Saturday of February.
But let's take a quick step back, what exactly is a Pisco Sour? Well, as you might guess, the base liquor at work is called Pisco. Originally distilled by Spaniards during the 16th Century, this grape-based brandy is today Peru's most popular spirit.
Using pisco as his base, an American bartender working in Lima invented a cocktail called the "Pisco Sour" in the early 1920's. The drink's popularity quickly spread and other bars began to experiment with their own versions. By the end of the decade the modern Pisco Sour was born, combining Pisco with Lime Juice, Sweet Syrup, Ice, Egg Whites, and Bitters. Nowadays, the Pisco Sour is without a doubt the most iconic of all Peruvian drinks; or at least the alcoholic ones.
Not technically a beer but rather a whole "family" of beers, most Peruvians and in-the-know visitors seem to agree that the Cusqueña name is the way to go for a high-quality, widely available "macro-brew" in Peru.
For an easy to drink, lighter beer, the Cusqueña Premium is the best option (pictured above on the left). But if you're a bit more adventurous with your beer drinking, make it a point to try one (or more) of the other beers from the Cusqueña clan. They make an above-average wheat beer, a decent red lager, and a dark schwarzbier (also pictured above, on the right). Most of these beers should be available in just about all Peruvian dining establishments, and they're all significantly tastier than the wide variety of bland, light beers that will probably be offered alongside them.
4. Norton Rat's Tavern Micro-brews
Though we generally shy away from recommending places that cater strictly to tourists/foreigners, if you're looking for a fine micro-brew in Cusco, Norton Rat's is without a doubt the place. Ignore the ridiculous name and head to the second story of a building right on the Plaza de Armas in the heart of Cusco. Here you'll find one of the city's finest views, some okay food, and some truly excellent beer brewed in-house.
Whether you're into pale ales, porters, brown ales, or something else, Norton Rat's is brewing some of the most interesting craft beer coming out of Peru today. If you're a beer fan, you should not miss it!
5. Mate de Coca
One of the most traditional of Peruvian drinks, Mate de Coca is quite literally tea brewed with the infamous Coca leaf. Many foreigners assume the Coca leaf to be synonymous with the drug cocaine, this is far from the case. Coca leaves have been used for their medicinal properties safely and responsibly by the indigenous people of Peru for thousands of years, providing energy, and helping to combat the effects of altitude sickness.
Mate de Coca is found primarily in the Andean highlands of Peru, the ancestral homeland of the Inca people and modern-day home to Cusco and Machu Picchu, among other locations of interest to tourists. A slightly bitter but by no means unpleasant taste is a small price to pay for the jolt of pleasant energy a warm cup of Mate de Coca will give you.
If you've never heard of chicha before, don't feel bad, this is another traditional indigenous drink that's hardly known outside of the region. Generally associated with homemade drinks made from fermented corn, the term chicha is actually used by different cultural groups to mean entirely different things. We're going to look at the two most popular chichas, and two of our absolute favorite Peruvian drinks:
6. Chicha Morada
Image appears courtesy of www.mamaslatinas.com.
A non-alcoholic chicha for the whole family to enjoy, chicha morada (purple chicha) is one of the most popular traditional Peruvian drinks. The base for this one is purple corn, which gives the drink its namesake color and acts as the focal point of its distinctly sweet taste. To complete the mix, one normally adds Cinnamon, Sugar, Lime Juice, and other fruit, most typically Pineapple. Though the finer details can change from one chicha-maker to the next, this drink will always come out near the top of the list of fine Peruvian drinks.
7. Chicha de Jora
Rounding off our list is another classic Peruvian chica, chica de jora. Unlike in chicha morada, the yellow corn that goes into this drink is in fact fermented, meaning that this is another alcoholic drink for our list. The indigenous people of Peru have been enjoying this one for centuries, and we highly suggest you get in on the action. Foreigners often compare the taste to alcoholic apple cider, but the description doesn't quite do it justice. You'll just have to try it our yourself and see.