More than just wine: the best Chilean drinks

Fermented apple juice, spiced wine, and sweet cocktails made from sherry and cognac – all these and more are on offer at bars and restaurants throughout Chile

Thursday, June 23, 2011  
The classic Pisco Sour. (Photo: ReeseCLloyd/Flickr) The classic Pisco Sour. (Photo: ReeseCLloyd/Flickr)

The wines produced along the western fringe of the Andes are now some of the best known in the new world, but muscular Cabernets and Carmeneres are far from the only drinks Chile has to offer.

From the classic pisco sour to the earth-shaking terremoto, Chile offers a diversity of tipples, some cool and refreshing for the balmy summer, others warming enough to nurture through a frigid winter’s night. Below, This is Chile has assembled a list of some favorite local libations (and check out our photo album):

Pisco Sour: The classic cocktail claimed by both Chile and Peru appears on every cocktail list, and at its best is sweet and sour, refreshing and creamy, and packs a powerful punch. Made from pisco (a usually un-aged grape brandy), lemon juice, sugar and egg white, the drink is shaken with ice and sometimes served with a dash of angostura bitters.

Vaina: Like the pisco sour, vaina is typically drunk before a meal and with its tones of nuts and caramel is a good choice for fall and winter. Sweet sherry or port is shaken with powdered sugar, a bit of cognac and egg white, then topped with a sprinkling of powdered cinnamon.

Malta con Huevo: This sweet and hearty drink is a meal in itself. Malt beer is blended with sugar and a whole egg and served up in a pint glass.

Chicha/Chicha Manzana: These are two of Chile’s huaso liquors, traditionally made and drunk in the countryside. Throughout central Chile, in all of the country’s grape growing regions, the beverage is made by lightly fermenting grapes, while in the southern Chiloé archipelago, it is usually made using apples. Both are drunk in great quantities during Chile’s independence festivities in September, while in Chiloé the beverage is enjoyed throughout the summer.

Pipeño: This is the simplest version of Chilean wine and typically purchased in large jugs to be used in other traditional drinks. Both sweet and slightly bitter, Pipeño is most commonly drunk on its own in the countryside, or mixed with other ingredients to make drinks like the terremoto or poncha.

Terremoto: Meaning “earthquake,” the terremoto is the most emblematically Chilean of all alcoholic beverages, and is generally served at old-fashioned picadas where Chileans of all ages gather for hearty, simple meals of Chilean peasant food, or at bars specializing in traditional music, growing in popularity amongst young Chileans.

Pipeño is sloshed into a cup (usually plastic) and topped with a big scoop of pineapple ice cream, and often topped with a splash of another alcohol (Fernet, an herbal liqeur, is a popular choice). As the ice cream melts, the drink turns opaque, cold, and very sweet. These go down easy, but we don’t advise more than one in a night: these potable earthquakes are almost as powerful as the real ones.

Vino Navegado: Similar to mulled wine, this beverage is enjoyed primarily during the cold winter months. Inexpensive red wine is cooked with orange juice, orange rind, cinnamon and a bit of sugar. This is heated until the flavors infuse the wine. Serve hot.

Borgoña y poncha: These two drinks, usually served by the pitcher, are the preferred beverages of summer. Borgoña – which translates, ironically, as Burgundy, one of the world’s most celebrated wine regions – is made from simple red wine with ice and sliced strawberries. Poncha, made with simple white wine, is prepared in the same way, but with peaches rather than strawberries.