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The Colombian beverages partly reach far back into the past. For example Chicha was already known to the Incas, other varieties are an integral part of festivities - what would a Colombian fiesta be without Aguardiente?

In this article the five most traditional drinks of this country are compiled, beginning with the mood brightener of a former Latin American high culture.

 

Chicha

 

Chicha is a kind of corn beer from the Andes region of South America that has already been drunk by the Incas or as a Inca ruler would phrase it: The drink that keeps the people happy. Chicha was traditionally produced by chewing and releasing salivary enzymes. In other words, it was chewed until the cereal starch was transformed into sugar. A chemical process that results in the fermentation of the beer. But don't worry, today Chicha is no longer made in the mouth of its producer, but by soaking and germinating corn.

 

Chicha the beer like drink made out of corn (senalmemoria.co)

 

Corn is most commonly used for the production of Chicha as it is cultivated in large quantities in the Andean region and is an important food for the native population of South America. Quinoa, cassava, peanuts and palm fruits are also used to prepare chicha.

 

Zhuke

 

Zhuke is also a fermented drink made out of corn. Very similar to Chicha in its preparation but enriched with other local grains such as Amaranto (a close relative to Quinoa). Zhuke is more nutritional and less bitter in its flavour and it was a very common drink for Muisca people, the indigenous group that inhabited Bogota before the arrival of Spanish Conquistadores. Both Zhuke and Chicha are very ancient and were invented without any European influence, as sugar cane was uncommon in the pre-Columbian diet.

 

Guarapo

 

Guarapo is, highly dependant on the method of preparation, but in general terms, an alcoholic soft drink based on sugar cane. Guarapo comes originally from Colombia and describes a fermented drink, which is either made from sugar cane juice or from the "Panela", a typical product of South America (hardened sugar cane juice), by dissolving the "panela" in water and thus liquidizing it again.

 

The refreshing sugarcane drink Guarapo (worldrd.com)

 

The sugar cane is pressed out between rolling wheels and then poured into a cup filled with ice splinters. If the alcoholic variant of Guarapo is to be produced, the drink is fermented after the sugar cane press.

 

Chirrinchi

 

There are various popular types of Chirrinchi whereby one of them originates from the indigenous population of La Guajira. Chirrinchi is distilled from sugar water. This drink plays an important role in the celebrations of this indigenous culture. Goats and chirrinchi, for example, are among the main components of a funeral celebration.

 

The traditional way to ferment Chirrinchi in La Guajira (scoopnest.com)

 

A second kind of Chirrinchi comes from the Andes regions and resembles a herb liquor. It consists of a fermented mixture of sugar cane juice and water which is mixed with various herbs. The Monserrate Chirrinche in Bogotá is called Pirrín or Palito and consists of seven herbs that can vary according the need and taste: Chamomile, marjoram, lemon, mint, fennel, lemon grass and basil are the most commonly used herbs and should be stored for more than 15 days to obtain a good taste.

 

Aguardiente

 

Aguardiente is a Colombian liquor made from anise and sugar cane that moves by 29 percent by volume. The name is composed of the Spanish words agua (= water) and ardiente (= burning), so basically  fire water. Anise seed schnapps is an integral part of the Colombian culture, but it is subject to some local variations whereby the spirits from Bogota, Medellin, Huila and Valle del Cauca are easily recognizable. It is drunk as an aperitif, after a meal or just when you hanging around with good friends, so you don't need a special occasion to treat yourself to a small glass. But it is also an integral part of every celebration, where the filled liquor glass goes through the row and everyone drinks it in one go.

 

A Colombian fiesta without Aguardiente is not a Colombian fiesta (aguardienteantioqueno.com)

 

Since some years, Aguardiente is not only sold in glass bottles but also in tetrapaks of 0,25 and 1 litre, in order to reduce the risk of injury and to prevent that empty bottles are filled up with self distilled alcohol and sold as Aguardiente.

 

Whether the fiery Aguardiente, the refreshing Guarapo, the spiritual Chirrinchi, the ancient Chicha or the muiscan Zhuke, the traditional drinks of Colombia have it in themselves and convince by history, traditions or quite simply by their great taste. These drinks can usually be found where the locals get together for a drink and are available for an affordable price. Through the consumption you will not only get an interesting insight into the taste culture of Colombia, but also into the open-hearted Colombian population, a lot of insider knowledge, and make new friends.


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