One of the best countries for food, these Peruvian drinks will tempt you to jump on a plane right now.
Peru is, without a doubt, magical for so many reasons.
Although most tourists know the country because of the famous Machu Picchu, this country is also steeped with so much history and culture that it should be on your bucket list.
I first visited Peru in 2011 starting with the north. I disliked Mancora, loved Piura, felt overwhelmed by Lima and eventually settled in Cusco.
There I found a cozy hostel. They asked me if I was interested working in the bar in exchange for free accommodation and food. Feeling burnt out by travel at that time I realized it was a great time to settle down.
It wasn’t the first time I’ve worked as a bartender. But in Peru you need to learn all the drinks for visiting backpackers who want to try pisco cocktails.
I only stayed 6 weeks in Cusco. But becoming part of the tourism industry just for a bit helped me see the other side of the city – especially the late night drink scene.
If you’re looking to relax after a long hike on the Inca Trail or just explore Peru’s food and drink scene, here are 17 different Peruvian drinks that you should try:
Yes I said beyond pisco sour, but really you need to try it in Peru.
Peruvians love their Pisco Sour so much that the country celebrates National Pisco Sour Day every first Saturday in February.
Considered as the national drink of Peru, pisco sour is made from Peruvian pisco as its base liquor. It’s mixed with syrup, ice, lime juice, egg white and Angostura bitters.
Most Peruvians would say that one of the best ways to get drunk in Peru is with Pisco.
This brandy is made with fermented grape juice that’s distilled until it becomes a high-proof spirit.
Pisco is now very popular in both Peru and other parts of the world. It’s already being produced in Chile and the United States.
You can find this drink in most Peruvian restaurants and bars. And you’ll surely love its perfect balance. The perfect balance between the sweetness of the syrup and the sour notes of the lime juice.
And while travelers love to come to Peru to try the local spirits, the truth is Peruvians drink more beer than pisco sour.
In fact, many of the hangover cures and virility drinks at the juice stands in the market often include Peruvian beer.
While craft beer in Peru is becoming more popular, the industry is still dominated by 3 big brands: Cristal, Cusqueña and Pilsen Callao.
But fear not, it’s not all watery lagers, even the big brands make dark beer.
Inca Kola is undoubtedly the most popular soda in all of Peru.
Its history traces back to 1910 when Jose and Martha Lindley opened a shop in Lima that sold homemade carbonated beverages.
The English couple eventually created a unique soft drink to commemorate Lima’s 400th founding anniversary. This is how Inca Kola was born.
When Coca Cola entered Latin America they were able to extinguish many local brands as fancy packaging, advertising and borderline unethical pricing lured locals.
But this didn’t happen in Peru. Inca Kola was so beloved it could not be beat. So finally in 1999 Coca Cola relented, by purchasing Inca Kola.
Today, the “Pride of Peru” can be enjoyed everywhere. It is one of the most popular soft drinks in Ecuador too.
Personally for me, Inca Kola tastes too sweet and almost like bubble gum but it’s absolutely worth trying.
Chicha Morada is a non-alcoholic drink made of locally grown purple corn or maiz morado.
Dating back to the Inca Empire, purple corn has several health benefits like reducing blood pressure and preventing heart disease.
Chicha morada is made by boiling purple corn, pineapple skin, cinnamon, sugar and cloves.
It has a distinct purple color from the corn and a delightful sweet flavor profile. It is a very refreshing drink in Peru.
And while many drinks in Peru can be found in other Andean countries, such as the highlands in Ecuador and Bolivia, it is very rare to see chicha morada outside Peru.
Chicha de Jora
There are many kinds of chicha in Peru as Peruvians use the word to reflect any fermented beverage. But if you can only choose one fermented Peruvian drink this is the one to try.
Chicha de jora traces its history back to the Inca Empire. It has been a traditional fermented drink made of corn, which can also be found in the Andes in Colombia, Bolivia and Ecuador.
It is somewhat easiest to explain it as a corn beer. And looks similar with its distinct thick foam and sweet and sour notes.
It’s a bit murky because of the fermentation so don’t worry if you can’t see through the liquid.I like to think of this combination similar to kombucha.
It is traditionally made in earthenware pottery or jugs and usually at home and in the market if you know where to look.
However, there has been a resurgence to embrace local traditions. You’ll see chicha de jora bars (chicherias). And for the timid you can usually find industrially produced chicha in the supermarket.
As it’s a fermented product, similar to beer it is alcoholic. However, even home batches are typically 1-3% ABV. But be careful with the homemade batches just in case as there’s no way to know.
Another classic Peruvian drink that utilizes Peruvian pisco as its base liquor, the chilcano is actually more popular with locals.
This is because the chilcano is more refreshing and less boozy. It’s like a classic Moscow mule. It’s perfect on a hot day.
This Peruvian drink is traditionally made with Angostura bitters, ginger ale, lime juice and ice.
But some locals also use exotic fruit juices like lucuma and maracuya as a replacement for lime.
Peruvians celebrate a weeklong festival in mid-January to honor this drink.
Chicha sour is a Peruvian cocktail made with a combination of pisco, lemon or lime juice, simple syrup, egg whites, and chicha morada – a traditional beverage made from purple corn.
In order to prepare the cocktail, all ingredients should be shaken without ice in order to create a foamy mix.
Ice is then added to the combination, and the whole thing is shaken once again. It is recommended to serve chicha sour in a coupe glass and garnish it with mint.
You’ll find this drink in almost every street corner in Peru when it’s cold. It’s essentially barley tea and used to cure a variety of ailments from a n upset stomach to reproductive issues.
Emoliente is commonly a mix of herbs that include dried horsetail, barley, plantain leaf, alfalfa sprouts and flax seed.
Although like everything, everyone has their own recipe, specific to the ailment.
This hot drink is believed to have medicinal properties, which is why it’s a favorite among locals. They to treat digestive, reproductive, respiratory and circulatory problems.
But if you’re not feeling well while in Peru, it’s guaranteed someone will offer you emoliente.
Mate de Coca
Also known as coca tea, mate de coca is made with the leaves of the coca plant, which is grown locally in Peru.
This hot tea is perfect for those who experience altitude sickness. I discovered in Cusco, many people flew in to Lima and traveled directly to Cusco.
Nearly all of them felt some effects from the altitude. And so we always kept mate de coca at the bar for them.
But it’s very important to remember that this seemingly simple cup of tea can actually get you into trouble if you drink too much of it.
I don’t know if this is true but many people told me drinking two cups of mate de coca is enough to get you a positive result on a drug test.
So don’t drink it if you want to qualify for the Olympics.
Algarrobina is a mix between a dessert and cocktail, making it one of the most unique drinks in Peru.
It derives its name from the “algarrobo” or black carob tree. the dark syrup is made from (see above) to make a type of punch that many people compare to egg nog.
The original recipe uses wine, but as pisco is much less expensive it quickly evolved to use the local spirit.
It is mixed with condensed milk to give it that extra sweet taste that Peruvians love.
It sounds odd, but it’s served at the end of a meal, which makes the sweetness tolerable.
Also known as chicha de frutilla, frutillada is the sweeter version of chicha de jora.
True to its name, this drink is made with strawberries and sugar mixed with chicha de jora.
The strawberries give the drink its unique pink color and you can find frutillada in many local restaurants in the Andes.
Be ready to get a lot of this drink though because it is usually served in huge glasses that you’ll need to hold with both hands as you take a gulp.
Peru is abundant of different kinds of fruits, which is why it’s easy to find a lot of fruit juice stands around the country.
In fact, you can find an almost endless list of fruit selection in cafes, restaurants and stands in Peru including guavas, papayas, bananas, pineapples and maracuya or passion fruit.
One of the things I loved most about my time in Cusco was visiting the jugerias or juice stands in the market.
You can request whatever mix of fruits and vegetables you want for a juice or surtido aka smoothie. But there are some well known mixes you’ll want to try.
One of the most popular fruit juice concoctions in the country is a drink called Jugo Especial, which is essentially a mix of different kinds of fruits, an egg and an optional black Cusquena beer.
This drink has a thick consistency yet it’s very refreshing, especially during the summer.
Limonada Peruana is probably the simplest drink in this list, but it definitely packs a punch when it comes to flavor and freshness.
Essentially the Peruvian lemonade, this drink is made of water, small Peruvian limes and some brown sugar or panela to give it a sweet note.
You can have it with ice or chilled to enjoy during the hot summer months as you savor some of Peru’s most delicious offerings.
Cremolada is a short form for crema helada or frozen cream. But this is actually a dairy free drink that is more like a fruit slushy.
It is another popular street food drink in Peru, which is essentially a mix of fruit juice and ice placed in a plastic cup.
Peruvians love their cremolada in the hot summer months because of its refreshing taste.
You can also choose from a wide range of fruit flavors for your cremolada.
Canelazo is a traditional hot alcoholic drink popular in Peru, Colombia, Bolivia and northern Argentina.
And it’s still one of my favourite Ecuadorian drinks.
A common drink in the Andes, it is made with aguardiente or unaged sugar cane alcohol. It’s a warm punch with unprocessed sugar and water boiled with cinnamon and often clove or star anise.
Canelazo is especially popular during the cooler months in Peru. People are looking for something to make them feel warm with a kick of alcohol to it.
If you visit a festival in the villages during the time you’ll see lots of cauldrons in the street. Vendors make a non-alcoholic version and then add aguardiente upon request.
Beware they will be generous with the pour.
Rounding up this list is one of Peru’s most intriguing cocktails.
Don Alfredo is made by mixing elderflower-infused liquor, Peruvian mosto verde pisco, lime juice and ice, then topped with sparkling mineral water.
This cocktail is garnished with basil, lime peel or mint leaf and enjoyed along with most Peruvian dishes.
Some mixologists also create their own take on this classic cocktail by adding cava or champagne to make the Don Alfredo Spritz.
El Capitan – Peruvian Manhattan
Most Peruvian cocktails have an interesting story that combine the use of local ingredients with foreign influence.
El Capitán is one of them.
The first mention of this Peruvian drink is in the 1920s and was known to be a favourite of army captains.
It’s also known as the Manhattan Peruano.
It’s a combination of pisco and sweet vermouth and resembles a Manhattan except the traditional whisky is replaced by pisco.
Vermouth was widely available in Peru since the mid 1800s as many Italians immigrated to Lima after WWI and their presence influenced what we know today as Peruvian cocktails.
Originally this drink was only 20 centavos or 20 cents and so that became its functional name. The story of its name change is an unverified legend that bartenders would pass the drink to military capitals and say “For you, my Captain”.
As this drink gained popularity outside of the Italian immigrants and military personnel its name changed – and likely its price!
Are you ready to sample these popular drinks in Peru?
No matter what time of the year you’re visiting, you’ll surely find a drink or two to enjoy while you’re exploring this magical country.
Of course, you should also try these drinks together with some of the best Peruvian dishes around like the ceviche, rocoto relleno, papas a la hauncaina, lomo saltado and anticuchos de corazon.
For sure, your trip will be one amazing culinary adventure, as if hiking the Machu Picchu isn’t an adventure enough.