One of the most fun bucket lists for traveling Guatemala, here are the Guatemalan drinks you need to try. Don’t worry they are not all alcoholic, but each of them is quite the adventure. How many can you tick off the list?
Although Guatemala is a small country in Latin America, it absolutely leaves an impression.
It was once the heart of the Mayan empire and a strong indigenous culture remains today. You don’t have to go to a museum to see it. You can see it in the streets.
And you’ll find it in traditional food and Guatemala drinks.
Guatemala is a beautiful country with an interesting mix of cultures, that are not only influenced by Spanish colonization.
But also Asians and Africans who were brought to the country as slaves. And today you can see their influences as well.
And the Garifuna people, also known as Garinagu, are primarily on the coast but also throughout the country.
They descended from Afro-indigenous people from St Vincent in the Caribbean. In the 18th century they were originally exiled to the coast of Honduras.
But they also traveled north and some settled in Guatemala but most settled in Belize.
This is all to say Guatemala is a distinct country. And while there may be some drinks in Guatemala that are similar to neighbouring countries, there are many you will only find here.
I love exploring a country through it’s food. I often bring a list of the drinks I want to try while there – both alcoholic and non-alcoholic.
Over time I find when I talk to locals about this list they are interested to see what is on the list.
They will usually tell you the best place to drink it, many times it is at their mother’s house.
So be prepared because Guatemalans are so friendly and you may just have an unexpected adventure.
To start off this list is something that most cultures have in common, beer.
One of the most popular Guatemalan beverages has to be beer and Gallo is considered a national favorite.
In fact, it is the national drink of Guatemala.
The iconic pale lager is the bestselling Guatemalan alcohol and it has been around since 1896.
Gallo means rooster and this Guatemalan beer contains 5% alcohol. It is sold in aluminum cans and returnable bottles.
A Guatemalan brewery called Cerveceria Centro Americana Sociedad Anonima started producing it.
Guatemala City also has some other famous beer brands such as Sol, Dorada and Victoria.
Sol is originally a Mexican beer that’s been exported to Guatemala. While both Dorada and Victoria are produced by the same local brewery that makes Gallo.
Most mainstream beer in Guatemala is pretty much like all Latin American beers.
Easy to drink on a hot day some a plate of chojin, but beer connoisseurs are not going to rave about it.
I personally don’t mind. But if you love beer don’t worry. There’s a growing industry of craft beer in Guatemala such as Antigua Cereveza.
Guatemalans have a love affair with rum and if you ask any local what the best rum brand in the country is, it would definitely be Ron Zacapa Centenario.
Rum Creation and Products created this special premium rum in 1976 to commemorate the centennial anniversary of the town of Zacapa in eastern Guatemala.
A doctor and chemist named Alejandro Burgaleta came up with the perfect process for long-aged rums.
It gives Ron Zacapa its distinct smooth taste making it a popular Guatemalan alcohol.
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You can choose from Zacapa 23 aged between 6 and 23 years, Zacapa XO aged between 6 and 25 years, Zacapa Edicion Negra aged between 6 and 24 years, and Zacapa Royal.
And while it is best as a drink that is neat or over ice, you’ll also find it in many Guatemalan cocktails.
Other popular rum drinks from Guatemala include Ron Botran that’s produced by the same distillery that makes Zacapa.
It also produces Island Signature, which specializes in its signature Yellow Snake dark rum.
Aside from being consumed as a drink, Guatemalan rum is also used for some dishes in traditional Guatemalan food.
You’ll be doing a lot of drinking in Guatemala City, that’s for sure.
But don’t worry because the country also has its special hangover cure from all those wonderful drinks in Guatemala, picocita.
Now, this concoction follows one of the original Guatemalan drinks recipes that starts simple with Gallo Draft or light beer.
Then you add salt, chile, chopped onion, vinegar, lime, Worcestershire sauce, sometimes hot pepper and some more lime juice.
Picocita tastes like the Guatemalan food ceviche. However, without the fish and Guatemalans swear by its power to cure even the worst hangover.
Aguardiente or guaro is a type of liquor that’s popular in Latin American countries and it’s one of the most popular drinks in Colombia.
It is considered as one of the best drinks from Guatemala and one of the original Guatemalan drink recipe.
Aguardiente is produced by distilling sugar cane juices. It produces a clear liquid that’s than your typical liquor.
Aguardiente traditionally contains 30% alcohol, although some variants are stronger.
And if you age aguardiente, it becomes rum.
Quetzalteca is Guatemala’s most popular aguardiente. Locals love to drink it as a shot or mix it with fresh fruit juice to create a cocktail that’s served in many restaurants.
Although Quetzalteca has a fruity and light taste, don’t be deceived because each bottle can contain between 29 and 60% alcohol by volume.
It is one of the strongest Guatemalan beverages.
Venado is another popular aguardiente produced by a local alcohol distillery called Industrias Licoreras de Guatemala.
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Quetzalteca may be Guatemala’s most popular aguardiente, but in Mayan indigenous communities cusha is a favorite traditional drink that’s part of Guatemala customs.
This is actually a home-brewed spirit that’s made with corn. It is somewhat similar to what we would call moonshine.
It has been used in ancient rituals where shamans would drink cusha and spit it over participants for them to be healed.
Today, some locals still make cusha using one of the original Guatemalan drinks recipes, which is cow dung that’s believed to help the fermentation process.
Now if you’re brave enough to try that, make sure to drink cusha slowly since some brews can be extremely strong.
Chicha may look like a regular fresh fruit punch, but it’s actually a fermented alcoholic beverage made from different ingredients.
This pre-Hispanic drink has been used for rituals and other Guatemalan customs in the Andes region for centuries.
The chicha in Guatemala City is more of a fresh fruit liquor made with pineapple, peaches, quince and nance.
It is fermented for 6 months. And while it is lightly sweet and fruity, but it can definitely pack a punch.
While the chicha in Guatemala is a somewhat contraband fruit liquor made in the town of Salcaja, it is reputed to have been made with peaches, pineapple, quince, and nance, a sort of wild yellow cherry.
The mixture is allowed to ferment for 6 months, then strained and bottled. It is a semisweet, fruity wine, light red in color, and can pack a punch.
Guatemalan Ponche Navideño
You can’t celebrate Christmas in Guatemala without making the Ponche Navideno or Guatemalan fruit punch.
One of the most popular drinks from Guatemala, this sweet punch is actually served hot and paired with Christmas tamales, which is a tradition in Guatemala.
You can choose whatever fresh fruits you like to add in ponche navideno but pineapples, apples, plums, bananas and jocotes are staples in Guatemala.
They are boiled in a pot of water and cinnamon sticks, cloves, sugar and salt are added for extra flavor.
Ponche de Leche
Ponche means punch in Spanish. And so there are many different kinds of Guatemalan punches, especially at Christmas.
But this one may be more familiar as it was likely brought by the Spanish, it is similar to Mexican rompope, Crema de Vie in Cuba and what we know as eggnog in English.
Guatemalan Drinks Non Alcoholic
Despite starting with all the boozy drinks in Guatemala, my biggest memories are from Guatamalan fruit drinks.
Limonada con Soda
Limonada con soda is Guatemala’s take on the popular lemonade.
Since the country can be very humid during the summer, locals find this concoction one of the most popular Guatemalan drinks non alcoholic and it’s also a must-try for travellers.
Limonada con soda is a simple beverage made with freshly squeezed lime juice, sugar, club soda and some mint leaves.
You just need to heat the lime juice and sugar, whisk them together, and let cool. Stir in the club soda and pour it on a glass filled with ice.
You can then add some lime slices and mint leaves and you got yourself a refreshing beverage to cool off during a hot day.
You can actually buy pre-made limonada con soda in some supermarkets in Guatemala.
Some food stalls also sell them during the summer because they’re good pairing for Guatemala food.
If limonada con soda is the Guatemalan version of the lemonade, licuados is its version of a fruit smoothie.
There is an abundance of tropical fresh fruits growing in Guatemala. And so you can find a wide variety of licuados.
It is essentially a smoothie with a base of milk, water and yogurt.
Some of the most popular exotic fruits used for licuados include banana, cantaloupe, papaya, watermelon, mango, pineapple and guanabana.
Aside from food stalls in local markets, you can also order licuados in restaurants and cafes, which is considered safer.
Guatemala’s water is not safe to drink. Make sure to ask a vendor if the licuado is made with just milk and yogurt.
Horchata is one of those drinks in Guatemala City but is also known as one of the most popular drinks in Mexico.
This rice-based drink actually originated in the Yucatan, Mexico.
But it has been prepared as part of Guatemala customs for centuries due to its relation to the Mayan culture.
There are even records of it being made for King Charles IV’s jury in 1789 in the Central American General Archive.
Horchata is traditionally made with rice, cinnamon, almonds, sugar and water. The rice needs to be soaked in water overnight and blended with water the next day.
Milk, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla can then be added to the mix and the horchata is ready to be enjoyed cold or paired with Guatemala food.
Coffee is a staple among all Guatemalan beverages in Guatemala, especially because the country produces some of the best coffee in the world.
What makes Guatemalan coffee different is its strong, full-bodied yet sweet flavor with a hint of acidity and some extra notes to tickle the palate.
Antigua is the prime coffee-producing region of Guatemala because it sits between three volcanoes making the soil ideal for growing coffee.
This is where the Guatemalan peaberry, one of the world’s most in-demand coffees is produced.
This variety represents the top 5% of the beans from the best crops in the country, which means that this is the highest quality coffee you’ll get in Guatemala, and you’ll know when you taste it.
There are also 6 other regions in the country that produces coffee including Atitlan and Huehuetenango.
Atolillo is a traditional rice atole or beverage that also tastes like rice pudding.
This Guatemalan favorite is usually prepared during the holidays because it can be made ahead and re-heated before serving.
Atolillo is made with long grain rice soaked overnight then blended, after which milk, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla are added to complete this rice-based beverage.
It is actually served hot and sprinkled with some extra ground cinnamon to give it a more holiday feel.
Atole de Elote
Atole de elote is another staple among Guatemalan drinks non alcoholic in Central American culture.
In Guatemala, locals always enjoy their atole de elote paired with tamales or tostadas every 3 o’clock in the afternoon.
It is also one of the most popular Honduran drinks.
This corn-based hot beverage is made by blending whole corn kernels and mixing them with cinnamon, salt, sugar and milk.
A sprinkle of ground cinnamon is also added on top to add more comfort to this Guatemalan favorite hot beverage.
As much as Guatemalans love their coffee, they also love their cup of hot cocoa.
But what makes this beverage different from what we have back home is that Guatemalans love to make their cup with bars of pressed cocoa.
This is cooked with milk and cinnamon to give it that warm, comforting flavor.
Guatemalan hot cocoa has that unique crumbly flavor profile that’s sweet and very indulgent with every sip.
Along with other drinks in Guatemala, this beverage is sold in most restaurants and coffee shops in Guatemala.
You can also find the cocoa bars in local markets so you can make your own cup back home.