Liquors of Guatemala
by Diana Pastor
One of the more interesting things about Guatemala is the diversity that it offers. In a relatively small area are a range of cultures, climates, landscapes, foods and drinks. This last category is particularly interesting when you look at all the different ways that home-made alcohol is produced. Sometimes they’re sold from the same house they’re made in, and sometimes from little stores or clandestine operators, but they always retain the flavor of the village where they’re made. Let’s have a look at a few:
Boj: Made from a base of fermented sugar cane, this drink is particularly popular around Alta Verapaz and is served at parties, religious celebrations and village festivals. It’s mixed with corn and has a particularly bitter taste and seems to be disappearing as fewer and fewer people make it.
Caldo de Frutas: A mixture of fruits such as apple, peach, cherry and plums which are then mixed with homemade liquor and left to soak. It has a red, wine-like coloring and it’s said that it has been prepared in the highlands ever since the Spanish arrived in Salcaja (just down the road from Xela) and invented this local version of sangría.
Guifiti: The traditional drink of the Garífuna, this is popular on the Caribbean coasts of Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. It’s mostly made from medicinal herbs and roots soaked in rum and is said to have various healing qualities – some of which include preventing parasites, improving the immune system, reducing stress and increasing sexual prowess.
Chicha: Originally used exclusively in religious celebrations by indigenous Central Americans, this one if made with ground corn and other cereals. The story goes that traditionally it was produced with a mixture of tender corn and harder corn which was softened by women and children chewing it, then spitting it out.
Fresco de súchiles: Similar to Caldo de Frutas, although usually made with just one type of fruit (pineapple is a popular choice). Raw sugar, toasted maize, aniseed, pepper and ginger are added (although every producer has their own special recipe) and it’s left to ferment.
Rompope: A delicious mixture of rum, eggs and milk that is also commonly made and available in Salcaja. It has a yellow coloring and a sweet flavor which makes it very suitable for use in dessert recipes.
Cusha: Made by a long process of fermenting fruits (some people claim burying them gives better results), this is very much a clandestine liquor, with a strong, rustic taste. If somebody offers you some, think twice – a bad hangover is almost guaranteed, and every year there are newspaper reports of people who have gone blind or even died after drinking it.