Well, I not all of these were enjoyed by the Incas and their predecessors, but you get the idea.
Two beverages that cannot be missed while in Peru are Inca Kola and the pisco sour. The first is a bubble-gum sweet, radioactive-yellow tinted pop sold everywhere. It is very popular, outselling Coca Cola by…I’m not sure. A lot. I liked it a lot and drank it when I could. No caffeine!
The pisco sour is the signature alcoholic drink of Peru. Pisco is rather like grappa, the Italian liquor made from grapes. Kind of like a Peruvian grape brandy, I’ve heard it described. It’s also made in Chile, but the Peruvians are fiercely protective of it, citing national pride. There’s a lot of that down here. Either way, it’s a pretty strong, pretty tasty drink that, again, you can buy in every bar in Peru. It’s topped with beaten egg whites.
Other drinks reach further back. Chicha is an old, old drink made from corn. The alcoholic version was made by communally chewing corn (that’s right, sharing spit), then letting the remains sit and ferment until you had booze. We tried some, and though it wasn’t too alcoholic-tasting, it was definitely fermented. I rather enjoyed it. You can buy chicha in almost every town in Peru, you just have to keep an eye out for a pink/red flag (most commonly a plastic bag tied to a stick) hung outside of a home. That means CHICHA HERE.
Even better was chicha morada, a non-alcoholic drink made from purple corn. This was probably our favourite drink, consumed at every possible opportunity. Of course, it was best when homemade, but you could buy it in a two-litre bottle as well. It was often made with bits of pineapple or apple in it, giving it a slight fruity taste. Oh, man, I’m drooling just thinking about it! You can find a recipe from Cocinando con Carmen at the end.
Coca tea is another ancient drink, one often used to help with altitude sickness. It’s much weaker than chewing the coca leaves themselves, but still delivers some of the benefits. After every meal, this is one of the options you receive – the other two are anise tea and chamomile. I enjoyed my coca tea with a touch of sugar.
I don’t know if the Incas drank quinoa juice, but lots of people do now. It’s a popular breakfast food/drink, as a matter of fact. Hot, filling, and tasty, it’s usually sold on the street. A quick recipe for it from Cocinando con Carmen can be found at the end of the article.
Lastly, the drink that’s wrinkled the most noses – essence of frog. I tried this in a market in southern Peru, where the guy selling it to me told us that 10-15 people come by every day to get their healthy frog juice. He was one of many, many sellers in town. It’s not just frog, there’s also carob extract, half of a banana, carrot and beet juice, a raw quail egg, water, honey, and maca (a kind of powdered root). It didn’t taste too bad, kind of sinister juice. Chris likened it to juice made with pond water. I don’t know if there’s a direct connection, but I was rather ill that night. We’ll never know. Oh, and just so it’s clear, the frog was alive right before I ordered the drink – it’s killed and skinned on the spot.
3 L water
1/2 kg purple corn
1 tsp whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
Brown sugar and lemon juice to taste
1. Cook the purple corn, cloves, cinnamon, and pineapple skin in the water for 10-15 minutes.
2. Strain and let cool. Add the sugar and lemon juice if you wish, then add the pineapple, chopped into small cubes. Cubed apple can also be added.
Quinoa juice with apple
1/2 c cleaned quinoa
1/2 kg apples, cut into quarters
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 tbsp cloves
sugar to taste
1/2 c brown sugar for colour
1. Put 2 litres of water, quinoa, apple, cinnamon, and cloves in a pan. Bring it to a boil and let it simmer. When the apple is cooked, remove it and blend/smash it, put it through a sieve and return liquid to the pan. You can skip the sieve if you like. Drink is finished when quinoa is rather soft and mushy.
2. To give the drink some colour, heat the sugar in a pan. When it caramelizes, add it to the pan. Add extra sugar to taste until desired sweetness is reached.