A Dozen “Other” South American Cocktails

by Liz Caskey on November 12, 2009


On my last trip to the States, I was really excited to see how many Latin cocktails have become mainstream in bars, cocktail lounges, and restaurants. You probably already know them: Mojito, Cuba Libre, Caipirinha, Pisco Sour (Peruvian and Chilean versions, thank you). General awareness of Latin food, culture, cuisine, wines, and drinks most definitely is on the rise.

However, down in these latitudes, there are more than a dozen “other” cocktails that are consumed in the same or even larger portions than the above mentioned classic drinks. As we shift into sunshine-filled days with sunset after 8pm, temptations and dreams of a balmy terrace with good buddies (or a date) and cocktails fill my mind. If you’re lucky enough to be headed south, give them a try. Salud! Saude!

1. Piscola (Chile): Pisco plus Coca-Cola equals piscola, at least in Chile. This is the Cuba Libre of Chile. Pisco, an inexpensive type of grape brandy, is the most widely consumed hard alcohol in Chile along with rum. And Chileans are the largest consumer of Coca Cola on the South American continent (impressive considering the population is only 16 million). This is the preferred mixer for any Sunday asado or bar tour. Warning though, when you order a piscola in Chile, the pisco will come in a tall glass on the rocks (no less than 3 shots) and the glass bottle of Coca Cola on the side.

2. Vaina (Chile): I can never ever get to the bottom of one of these, or past one sip to be completely honest. So rich that it seems more like alcoholic eggnog than a drink. Egg yolks and a white are blended with brandy or cognac, port, and a touch of cacao. It is sweet and thick. You will hardly ever see guys downing these babies. Definitely a chic drink.

3. Jote (Chile): In the countryside, rustic wine is made and sold by the liters. Since the wine quality is not so exceptional to consume by itself, many country folks like to mix up their plunk with, what else?!, Coca-Cola. The resulting 50-50 mixture is called “jote”. I will admit to having drunk this on a couple occasions while studying abroad here in the 90s at asados on the beach. My tastebuds registered it as very close to cough syrup (although I will disclose that I am NOT a coke fan).

4. Fernet Cola (Argentina): This is THE mixer in Argentina appearing at any weekend asado, gathering to watch a soccer game, or hanging out any time, any where. Argentines consume over 20 million liters per year of this stuff, many with Coke. Cold soda and abundant ice are critical to the success of this drink since the Fernet, an Italian digestif or bitter, is added lukewarm. Strong stuff. Argentines are passionate about this drink.

5. Caipiroska (Brazil): The lesser known sister of caipirinha, Brazil’s famed national drink made with limes, cachaca, and loads of ice, if the cachaca leaves you with a royal hangover, go for this vodka version. Nothing changes except the booze–and your head will thank you later.

6. Chicha (Chile): Chicha is a generic name for cider in Chile although depending on where they are making it, the fruit varies. In the South around Puerto Varas, chicha is mostly made out of apples in the fall. In the Central Valley with its Mediterranean climate and abundant grapes, grape cider is more common. Chicha flows like water during the 18 holiday. Don’t be fooled by its delicious, deceptively sweet taste–there’s alcohol in there! Yum, all you need is an empanada and listo.

7. Canelazo (Ecuador): Perfect for the Northern Hemisphere’s nearing chilly holiday season, this warm and toasty Ecuadorian drink is made with brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, orange juice, limes, and agua ardiente, fire water. Definitely better than tea, make sure you have some ginger cookies on hand for the munchies.

8. Clericó (Uruguay): A popular fruity punch consumed in liters, much like sangria, during the summer months on the breezy coast of Uruguay. White wine is combined with fruit like bananas, apples, oranges, grapes, strawberries, or a combo of them all and macerated for a few hours. Served ice cold, after coming out of the hot sun, it tastes like heaven. Places like La Huella in José Ignacio, a hip beach town east of Punta del Este, turn this rustic local drink, into a sublime experience.

9. Cajú Amigo (Brazil): Also known as cajuzinho, meaning little cashew, the concept is pretty simple. Take one cashew, chew slightly, then down with a shot of cachaca. Not for the faint of heart. If you do more than two of these, hold onto something when getting up.

10. Terremoto (Chile): Oh those Terremotos. Tony Bourdain almost professed love for them on No Reservations in Chile. Simple white wine known as pipeño gets a BIG scoop of pineapple sorbet on the top. Yes, it is a bonified “wine” float. Root beer seems so pedestrian after one of these guys. If in Santiago, hit El Hoyo or La Piojera, classic joints serving these babies up for over 100 years. Careful though, they may seem like fufu drinks but the combination of sugar and booze will get you trashed very fast.

11. Fanshop (Chile): This may not qualify as a drink per say, but it is a mixer of a sort. In Chile, you will see the locals drinking what looks like orange beer. No, this is not pumpkin flavored, it gets its neon-orange hue from Fanta. You got it–draft beer mixed with Fanta. They love and down liters of it. Try one with your lomito at Fuente Alemana.

12. Quentao (Brazil): Derived from the word quente, meaning hot in Portuguese, this potion is meant to warm you up on a cold winter’s night in Brazil (yes, they do exist, especially in the South). A simple syrup is made with ginger root and spices and steeped with cachaca and served warm. The version from the Southern Provinces like Rio Grande do Sul, the biggest wine producing state in the country, substitute cachaca for red wine which is particularly warming.

13. Batida de Maracujá (Brazil): Touch down in Brazil and you will quickly realize that one of the greatest indulgences in country is the abundance of fresh fruit. Batida is a term that translates to milkshake and in essence, could be virgin or alcohol-free made with milk and ice. However, why would we do that when the buzz is half the fun? Order it up with vodka or cachaca and a favorite flavor like the sweet tart passion fruit and you have a winner. Piña Coladas seem so passé in comparison to these guys.


Annje November 12, 2009 at 6:57 pm

Not a coke fan! That’s like blasphemy! I have never tried jote–I love coke and I love wine, but I just can’t imagine mixing them (and I don’t love cough syrup).

What was the difference between caipiroska and caipirinha?

eileen November 13, 2009 at 1:59 am

I like your list. I would add that the fruit in canelazo is actually naranjilla, not an orange, but part of the nightshade family, like the tomato. It’s fabulously delicious as a juice or mixed into a yogurt smoothie, or even in canelazo. There’s a Colombian juice place up in Providencia which I wrote about here: http://bearshapedsphere.blogspot.com/2009/08/latin-american-fruits-in-gasp-santiago.html where they have lulo juice (from pulp, with or without sugar, you decide). Lulo is what naranjilla is called outside of Ecuador (Colombia, Peru, not sure where else).

I tried jote for the first time not long ago. I felt like it made my teeth furry. Imagination? Perhaps. But I didn’t go back for more!

Grace Della November 20, 2009 at 6:49 pm

Wow. I have been looking for this information for a long time, thanks Liz for this post! interesting to learn Chile has so many drinks – got to get down there some time to try them!

Olli Umke March 4, 2010 at 5:52 pm

hmmm never thought of it this way, however I don’t totally understand it….

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