Last updated on October 2nd, 2023 at 08:43 pm
Ready to find out the top South American drinks you absolutely cannot miss?
South America, a continent that’s a melting pot of cultures, is home to a myriad of unique and flavorful drinks that reflect the diverse heritage of the region. From the tropical flavors of the Amazon to the robust tastes of the Andes, each country contributes its distinct beverages, steeped in tradition and flavor for Drinks in South America.
Whether you’re a fan of alcoholic concoctions or prefer refreshing non-alcoholic beverages, South America has something to satisfy every palate.
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Comparing South American Drinks
While each drink is a reflection of its native land, a comparison reveals the shared importance of social connections and heritage in South American cultures. Whether it’s the shared mate symbolizing friendship or the festival favorites like Caipirinha embodying the spirit of celebration, these drinks are a testament to the continent’s rich traditions and diverse flavors.
Alcoholic Drinks – South American Drinks
1. Pisco Sour (Peru and Chile)
Pisco Sour is a classic South American cocktail originating from Peru and Chile. It’s a blend of pisco (a type of brandy), lime juice, simple syrup, egg white, and Angostura bitters. The drink has a refreshing and tangy flavor with a frothy top, resulting from the shaken egg white.
- Occasion: It’s often enjoyed as an aperitif and is a staple at social gatherings and celebrations.
- Unique Fact: Pisco Sour has spurred a longstanding dispute between Peru and Chile regarding its origin, and both countries have their own variations and ways of preparing this beloved cocktail. In Peru, Pisco Sour is celebrated with its own national holiday on the first Saturday of February.
2. Caipirinha (Brazil)
The Caipirinha is Brazil’s national cocktail and is renowned for its refreshing and robust flavors. It strikes a harmonious balance between the sweet and tart, thanks to the combination of sugar and lime, and the Cachaça brings a sharp, distinctive kick.
- Ingredients: Cachaça, sugar, and lime
- How to Enjoy: Caipirinha is best enjoyed on a warm day. The refreshing tang of lime makes it a perfect drink to cool down with, and it’s often served over ice. You can enjoy it at beach bars or make it at home for a relaxing evening. It’s a versatile drink that pairs well with a variety of foods, particularly spicy and flavorful dishes.
3. Fernet (Argentina)
A bitter, aromatic spirit often mixed with Coca-Cola.
- Occasion: A popular social drink, usually consumed in gatherings.
- Unique Fact: Fernet was introduced to Argentina by Italians and has since become a staple, especially in Buenos Aires.
4. Chicha de Jora (Peru)
Chicha de Jora is a traditional Andean beverage, fermented from maize. It has a slightly sour taste and is often compared to sour beer or cider.
- Occasion: It is typically homemade and served at local festivities, communal agricultural activities, and family gatherings. However, it can also be found in “chicherias,” specialized venues dedicated to serving Chicha.
- Unique Fact: Chicha has a rich history, spanning back to the Inca Empire, where it played a significant role in religious ceremonies. The brewing and consumption of Chicha continue to hold cultural importance, particularly in rural Andean communities.
5. Aguardiente (Colombia)
A clear spirit with a strong anise flavor, often consumed neat.
- Occasion: A popular everyday drink, often enjoyed with friends and family.
- Unique Fact: Aguardiente is often considered the national drink of Colombia, and each region boasts its unique variant.
6. Singani (Bolivia)
A grape brandy with floral and fruity notes, typically mixed in cocktails.
- Occasion: Enjoyed during celebrations and as a casual drink.
- Unique Fact: Singani has been produced for over 500 years and holds a geographical indication status, meaning it can only be produced in specific regions of Bolivia.
7. Canelazo (Ecuador and Colombia)
A warm and spiced alcoholic beverage made with aguardiente, sugar or panela, and water infused with cinnamon sticks. It’s a popular drink in the high-altitude regions, where it helps combat the cold.
- Occasion: Often consumed during Christmas and other festivities.
- Unique Fact: Variations might include fruit juices like naranjilla in Ecuador or replace aguardiente with rum in Colombia.
8. Chimarrão (Brazil)
Definition: A traditional way to drink mate, primarily consumed in the southern part of Brazil. It involves a ritual where it is shared among friends and family.
- Occasion: Regularly enjoyed daily, especially in social gatherings.
- Unique Fact: It is a symbol of Brazilian Gaucho culture and hospitality.
9. Clericó (Paraguay)
A refreshing sangria-like drink made from a mix of chopped fruits and a base of wine, typically enjoyed chilled.
- Occasion: Ideal for hot summer days and often served at parties or family gatherings.
- Unique Fact: The variety and proportion of fruits can be adjusted according to preference, making each clericó uniquely flavorful.
10. Chilcano (Peru)
A refreshing cocktail consisting of Pisco, ginger ale, lime juice, and bitters.
- Occasion: It is typically enjoyed as a refreshing drink during the summer months.
- Unique Fact: There’s a week dedicated to celebrating this drink every January, known as “Chilcano Week.”
11. Ponche a la Romana (Chile)
A holiday punch made by mixing pineapple sorbet with champagne.
- Occasion: It is a traditional drink during the New Year celebration.
- Unique Fact: It’s not only refreshing but also symbolizes festivity and joy during celebrations.
Non-Alcoholic Drinks – South American Drinks
12. Mate (Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Southern Brazil)
Mate is a traditional South American drink made by steeping dried leaves from the yerba mate plant in hot water. It’s consumed through a metal straw called a “bombilla” from a hollowed-out gourd.
- Occasion: It’s more than just a beverage; it’s a social ritual, often shared among friends and family, symbolizing community and companionship.
- Unique Fact: While mate is a caffeinated beverage, it’s known to offer a smoother and more prolonged energy boost compared to coffee, without the jitteriness and the crash. The drink is deeply woven into the cultural fabric of the regions where it’s consumed, representing hospitality and a sense of connection.
13. Chicha Morada (Peru)
A sweet beverage made from purple corn, flavored with pineapple and spices.
- Occasion: Enjoyed as a refreshing everyday drink, especially during lunch.
- Unique Fact: Chicha Morada is not only delicious but is also believed to have numerous health benefits due to its high antioxidant content.
14. Guaraná Antarctica (Brazil)
A popular soft drink made from the guaraná fruit, offering a unique, refreshing taste.
- Occasion: Consumed as a regular soft drink and is especially popular among the younger demographic.
- Unique Fact: Guaraná Antarctica is the second most popular soft drink brand in Brazil, after Coca-Cola.
15. Tereré (Paraguay)
A cold version of mate, usually infused with medicinal herbs and citrus.
- Occasion: A popular summertime drink, representing friendship and hospitality.
- Unique Fact: Tereré is recognized as a cultural heritage in Paraguay and has deep roots in the country’s history.
17. Horchata Lojana (Ecuador)
A traditional Ecuadorian drink made from barley, lemon juice, sugar, and a variety of aromatic herbs and flowers.
- Occasion: It’s typically consumed as a refreshing beverage throughout the day.
- Unique Fact: Each region has its variation, and it is named “Lojana” as it originated from the city of Loja in Ecuador.
18. Mocochinchi (Bolivia)
A traditional Bolivian drink made from dehydrated peaches, sugar, and cinnamon, often served cold.
- Occasion: It’s a popular everyday beverage, especially during the hot season.
- Unique Fact: It is also enjoyed during traditional Bolivian festivities.
19. Té de Coca (Peru, Bolivia, Colombia)
A herbal tea made from the leaves of the coca plant, reputed for its medicinal properties.
- Occasion: Regularly consumed for its refreshing and revitalizing effects, especially in high-altitude areas to combat altitude sickness.
- Unique Fact: The coca leaf is a sacred element in Andean culture, symbolizing community and reciprocity.
20. Guaraná Extract Juice (Brazil)
A sweet beverage made from the guaraná fruit, which is known for its high caffeine content.
- Occasion: Enjoyed as a refreshing drink, it’s also used as an energy booster.
- Unique Fact: Guaraná is said to have numerous health benefits, including improved mental clarity and reduced fatigue.
21. Refajo (Colombia)
A popular Colombian cocktail mixing beer and Colombiana (a Colombian soda), offering a refreshing, fizzy, and slightly alcoholic beverage.
- Occasion: Typically enjoyed at barbecues and family gatherings.
- Unique Fact: The combination of flavors offers a unique taste experience that’s both sweet and malty.
22. Chicha de Piña (Ecuador)
A fermented pineapple drink, made by boiling the skins of pineapples with panela (unrefined whole cane sugar) and allowing it to ferment.
- Occasion: Often served during holidays and special occasions.
- Unique Fact: It’s a traditional drink with roots in indigenous cultures, each with its unique way of preparation.
23. Chapana (Peru)
A traditional Amazonian beverage made from yucca root. The yucca is grated, squeezed to extract the juice, and then boiled until it reaches a thick, creamy consistency.
- Occasion: It’s consumed as a staple drink in many indigenous communities of the Amazon.
- Unique Fact: The preparation process is labor-intensive, involving several hours of cooking to ensure the harmful compounds found in raw yucca are completely eliminated.
24. Submarino (Argentina)
A unique beverage consisting of a glass of steamed milk served with a bar of chocolate. The chocolate bar is submerged into the milk, giving the drink its name – “submarino” or “submarine”.
- Occasion: It’s a popular drink during winter and is often enjoyed as a comforting beverage, especially by children.
- Unique Fact: The warm milk slowly melts the chocolate bar, creating a creamy, rich drink that combines the sweetness of the chocolate with the richness of the milk.
25. Cocada (Brazil)
A smooth and creamy drink made with coconut milk, condensed milk, and sometimes, a splash of rum to create an alcoholic version. It’s usually served chilled, offering a refreshing tropical flavor.
- Occasion: It’s a popular everyday beverage but is especially refreshing during the hot summer months.
- Unique Fact: Cocada is not only enjoyed as a beverage but also as a dessert in various South American countries, showcasing the versatility of coconut.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Can I find these drinks outside of South America? A: While some beverages like Pisco Sour and Caipirinha are available globally, others like Tereré and Chicha Morada might be harder to find outside of their home countries.
Q: Which South American drink is the most popular globally? A: Caipirinha is likely the most recognized South American drink internationally, known for its refreshing and unique flavor profile.
Q: Can non-alcoholic versions of these drinks be made? A: Yes, many of the alcoholic beverages have non-alcoholic variants or can be modified to suit preferences.
Q: Which drink is the oldest among these? A: Chicha de Jora is considered one of the oldest, with its production dating back to long before the Inca Empire.
Final Thoughts on South American Drinks to Try
Exploring the drinks of South America offers a journey through the continent’s diverse cultures, rich traditions, and vibrant flavors. Whether you prefer the sweet and fruity essence of Brazil’s Caipirinha, the complex bitterness of Argentina’s Fernet, or the refreshing simplicity of Paraguay’s Tereré, the variety of beverages available promises a unique experience for every palate.
This exploration into the drinks of South America reveals not just the diverse flavor profiles each country offers, but also the shared values and traditions that are integral to the South American way of life. So next time you find yourself in this vibrant continent, do not miss the opportunity to immerse yourself in its rich culinary heritage by savoring these unique beverages!
When traveling to South America, trying the local beverages is a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the local culture and experience the diversity of flavors found across different regions. Keep in mind to consume alcoholic beverages responsibly and to be aware of the local drinking customs and laws, ensuring a respectful and enriching cultural experience.