Five iconic Latin American cocktails

October 7, 2013 at 10:18 am

One of the great pleasures of travelling is immersing yourself in local culture; trying local food and drink is an essential part of this. In Latin America, that includes the local cocktails.

If you find yourself in a strange land, surrounded by strange people drinking odd looking drinks, just ask yourself “what would Ernest Hemingway do?”

Fernet con coca – Argentina

Photo: Kenn Wilson

Your first taste of fernet is usually accompanied by a grimace. The next sensation is disbelief – how come everyone here is drinking this stuff?

But your next glass will taste better – the herbal flavours will start to come through. After a while, you will find yourself ordering the stuff out of choice. And when you leave Argentina, you will miss it!

This is not a spirit for the faint-hearted. The dark, bitter herbal liquor is often mixed with cola to make Fernet con Coca, a dark, frothy and evil cocktail that is allegedly very healthy.

From young to old, Argentines love fernet. There is even a song dedicated to it.

Pisco Sour – Peru

Photo: Jorge Pérez

The basic formula for the Pisco Sour is 3 parts pisco to 1 part simple syrup and 1 part lime juice, mixed with egg white, and sprinkled with Angostura bitters. It’s a unique flavour and one that you have to try in its native environment. But Peru is not the only country where the Pisco Sour is popular; neighbouring Chile also has a version (without the egg white and bitters).

Peru’s cuisine is some of the finest anywhere in the world and a good pisco sour will help you recover after gorging!

Mojito – Cuba

Photo: janthepea

Many bar staff secretly hate making mojitos, especially on busy evenings where the huddle around the bar is five deep. At home in Cuba, however, the drink makes sense: there is no hurry and things take time to do right.

The iconic mix of lime juice, mint, sugar, soda water and plenty of white rum is now a familiar taste all over the world. Various stories exist about the origins of the mojito, ranging from slaves drinking a variant on plantations to British sailors drinking it to keep scurvy away.

Cola de mono – Chile

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Consumed by adults around Christmas, the cola de mono (“monkey’s tail”) is a smooth, sweet Chilean cocktail containing aguardiente, milk, sugar, coffee, and cloves. According to legend, it is named after former Chilean president Pedro Montt, known as Mono Montt (“Monkey Montt”) by his friends. Depending on whom you believe, the name either came from a defeated political opponent who owned an ice cream parlour and drowned his sorrows with the soothing blend, or from an event when the president was persuaded to stay at a party by the delicious cocktail.

Caipirinha – Brazil

Photo: adrivdm

Brazil’s national drink is a mix of cachaça, sugar and lime, served with plenty of ice for those hot evenings. It tastes similar to a condensed, sweetened mojito and has become famous worldwide in recent years. Why? Because it is a taste of distilled sunshine and samba.

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