Close your eyes and picture yourself on a hot summer day. The heat is almost unbearable as you sit underneath a patio umbrella, shielding yourself from the glaring noonday sun. After a short wait the waitress returns with a ice-cold pitcher of beer, made more appealing by the droplets of condensation that have started to form on the outside glass. The first sip seems to cool you down almost instantly and you make think that there is nothing quite like the feeling of an ice-cold beer sloshing down your throat.
I have spent most of my university life in Ottawa and nothing quite beat summer patio sessions after a hard-day of work. When I started to travel abroad, I often replicated this behavior with friends I would meet at hostels, often after a very eventful day of sightseeing. One of the main promises I made to myself was when abroad was to always try new things; including food and drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic). As a result, every time I sat down at a restaurant or bar, I blindly ordered items that sounded good.
During my time in South America, I truly discovered some hidden gems in the shape of some great South American beverages that I encourage every one to try when abroad.
Terremoto – translated in English this beverage is aptly named “earthquake” as it is a quite the strong drink that will leave you with the ground (and your legs) feeling quite shaky. The drink is made from pipeño (a type of sweet fermented wine) with pineapple ice-cream served in a one-litre glass.
Pisco – a colorless or yellowish/amber colored grape brandy produced in Chile AND Peru. There are three different varieties of pisco: pisco quebranta, pisco acholado and pisco italia – dependant on the distillation and manufacturing processes. Beware, pisco also has a high alcohol content ranging from 60 to 100 proof (33% to 43%). There are a number of different cocktails that can be made in with pisco, but the most popular are:
– Piscola: similar to a rum and coke, it is pisco mixed together with Coke.
– Pisco Sour: both Chile and Peru both claim Pisco Sour as their national drink, yet the ingredients for this scrumptious vary in each country. Chile’s pisco sour includes lime (or lemon juice), powdered sugar, ice and of course pisco (sometimes whisked egg whites are also added for the froth on top of the drink.
Wine – it’s a no brainer that many of the wines found in our liquor stores back home come from Chile; the only difference is that these bottles of wine are often half the price! Wine is definitely plentiful in Chile and it would be a shame not to try some of the best wines that the country has to offer. *Fun Fact* If visiting Santiago de Chile, Cousiño Macul is the closest winery (that offers tours) and is located right on the outskirts of the city.
Acai – Acai smoothies are incredibly popular in Brazil (and delicious) and are served either solo or in unison with bananas, sugar and/or granola. Not only is it tasty, acai is also known as an anti-aging, anti-oxidant, immunity booster, a digestive aid and a colon cleanser.
Cachaça – is liquor made from fermented sugarcane juice and is the most populare distilled alcoholic beverage inBrazil. It is also known as aguardente and caninh and the strength can range from about 70 proof (35% alcohol) to 160 proof (80% alcohol). There are two types of Cachaca – white (harsher taste) and gold (smoother version). Although it can be mixed with different types liquids to produce tasty cocktails, the most popular drink is:
– Caipirinha: Brazil’s national cocktail is made with cachaca, sugar and lime. There are different variations of capirinhas that include fruits such as passion fruit, strawberries, kiwis, etc.
Fernet – I am not a fan of Fernet, particularly since it tastes like licorice (not my favorite), but the drink is a type of amaro, a bitter, aromatic spirit. The ingredient list varies but Fernet usually includes myrrh, rhubarb, chamomile, cardamom, aloe and especially saffron, which a base of grape distilled spirits and colored with caramel coloring. It usually is served as a disgestif after a meal but can also be served with (or mixed into) coffee and/or espresso
Malbec wine – originally from France, Malbec was introduced toArgentina in 1868 and has become uniquely identified with Argentina wine. Argentine Malbec wine is characterized by its deep color and intense fruity flavors with a velvety texture.
Mate – Popular in Argentina, Uruguay, southern Brazil andParaguay, Mate is a caffeine-rich infused drink, similar to tea. The “tea” is prepared by steeping dried leaves of yerba met in hot water and served in a calabash gourd (a type of vegetable from the squash family) with a metal straw.
Pisco Sour (photo from Travel & Escape)
Pisco – according to Wikipedia, Peruvian pisco is produced only using copper pot stills rather than continuous stills – like single malt Scotch whiskies and unlike most vodkas. Although it is has been an on-going conflict between Chile and Peru for more than 50 years, my alcohol palette is not very advanced – as a result I really can’t tell the difference between Peruvian and Chilean pisco!
– Pisco Sour: as mentioned before pisco sour is considered as the Peruvian national cocktail and is prepared with egg white, lime juice, syrup and bitters [Chilean pisco sour is often prepared without bitters.]
Obviously this is not an exhaustive list and I will be updating it once I start traveling again … do you have anything to add?