Drink Recipes: Cusco, Peru

Zane, drinking.

When we went to Cusco, we had a few drinks. It’s kind of the point. And since you weren’t there with us, we brought the best of Cusco back to you: the booze. Here’s a few of the libations we enjoyed in Peru – and how to recreate them wherever you are.


Buy some coca leaves, the fresher the better. Fill your vessel with coca leaves (a generous amount), hot water, and let it sit for minute or two. Some people add lemon juice, but I felt that it was fine on its own.

Zane with coca leaves
Shopping for coca leaves.


Although this one isn’t available in some dirty back alley of your closest metro area or seedy bowling alley, it’s a bit easier to make… at least in Peru.

The specifics of the recipe are a mystery, so you’ll have to go to Limbus Restobar in Cusco to try it. It does call for fresh coca leaves, so, in reality, you may have more success finding the illicit version of this substance than this cocktail. But, as per my observation of this drink being made, the ingredients are Pisco, a concentrate of coca (made into a reduction), fresh pineapple juice, aji limon (a combination of lemon and peppers), house-made simple-syrup, and cinnamon.

If you’re ambitious enough to try and make this at home, serve it up in your favorite skull glass along with some dry ice leftover from your recent Amazon Fresh order.

Cheers at Limbus Restobar in Cusco Peru
Mmm, cocaine!


This ancient drink is by macerating corn (or quinoa), mixing with water, converting the starch to sugars, and allowing natural yeast ferment the liquid, thusly creating alcohol.

While still consumed in areas like South America, like Cusco, this corn-based “beer” has been around for over a millennia and there’s evidence that many native American cultures made this drink, even in southwest North America.

Traditionally, the sprouted corn was chewed by Andean women and spit into a brew pot, beginning the process of fermentation. I searched Cusco and the surrounding towns for anyone still making chicha this way, but I was unsuccessful. Even though I understand that the brewing process, which leads to the creation of alcohol, would kill off bacteria and viruses present in saliva, I was quite relieved (on a personal level) that we couldn’t find any (though it might have made for good television). 

If you’re feeling ambitious enough to make a batch of chicha for your Four Sheets viewing party, here is a simple recipe for making a corn-based version.

Zane in Cusco drinking chicha
Hanging out in Cusco, drinking chicha. With a dog, of course.

Let me first give a quick lesson about fermentation (which goes without saying, depending on your level of experience). When yeast is introduced to a warm sugary liquid, the yeast begins to eat the sugar (yum!). The byproduct (waste) of this process is CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) and alcohol (-OH). This process is called fermentation. Most fermentation is done “open” without a top, so the CO2 (bubbles) usually dissipate, so what you’re left with is liquid, with a reduced amount of sugar, and alcohol. Incidentally, when the alcohol level becomes high enough, the yeast end up drowning in their own waste. Sad for yeast. Good for us.

This recipe makes about 2.5 gallons of of corn chicha.


  1. Fresh Uncooked Corn (cut off the ears) – 2 pounds
  2. Water – 2.5 gallons
  3. Unrefined/Brown Sugar – 2 pounds
  4. Ginger (fresh) – 1 ounce
  5. Lime Zest (rind) – 1 Tablespoon

You’ll also need a pot big enough for 2.5 gallons of chicha, a strainer or cheesecloth, a large bowl, and a food processor.


Throw the corn in a food processor. If you don’t have a food processor… get a food processor. Ground until coarse, not pulverized. Your objective is to break down the hard hull of the kernel to expose the fleshy part.

Fill a large pot (large enough for 2.5 gallons of water and two pounds of corn) with water.

Transfer the chopped corn to a large pot.

Bring the corn and water to a low boil (just above boiling).

Add in the sugar. Stir until the sugar is dissolved, which will happen quite quickly.

Cook uncovered on low boil for 30 minutes.

Cover after 30 minutes and let it chill. Relax with a glass of chicha while the pot chills. Oh, that’s right, you can’t. You don’t have any. That was insensitive. Apologies. Moving on… If you can fill your sink with ice water, this will help to reduce it to room temperature more quickly.

Pour the cornwater through a strainer, or a cheesecloth, or a strainer lined with a cheesecloth, into a large bowl.

Add in the ginger, lime zest and give it a nice stir.

Cover with a cheesecloth, which you happen to have because you used one to strain with. Sweet! Note that your objective with this step is to eliminate the ability for bugs to get in your chicha, yet enable CO2 to escape, so you’re not building up pressure.

Put is aside, inside, out of the sun, at room temperature, for 48 hours. The longer it sits, the more it will ferment, to a point. At some point (48-72 hours), depending on temperature, humidity, variables of the ingredients, it will reach critical mass, meaning no more alcohol will be created. So, it’s best to drink on the 2nd or 3rd day.


If you want to get cuh-razy, you can add in spices or fruit. Many traditional recipes call for the addition of cinnamon, cloves, coriander, and strawberries. Some zany folks even ad jalapeños.

Adding in beer yeast, or even bread yeast, can speed up the fermentation process and possibly improve the taste.

If you like your chicha, or even “kinda” like your chicha, take some notes during and after the process to see if you can make it better!


Peru proudly claims the Pisco Sour as the national cocktail. It a relatively simple cocktail that, when made right, is frothy and definitively refreshing. Chile does also claim the Pisco Sour as their national drink, and although I’ve been told that their recipe is considerably different (with the exclusion of egg white and Angostura bitters) I drank these in Chile, and they were made the exact same way as the ones I had in Peru.

Caravedo Mosto Verde Pisco
Mmm. Pisco.

The recipe for the Pisco Sour may date back to the 1700s, but it is officially credited to an American: Victor Morris, who opened a bar in Lima, Peru, in 1916. It’s said that he created the drink, but a Peruvian bartender named Mario Bruiget perfected the recipe in the 1920’s by adding an egg white and topping it with Angostura bitters. Of course, the Chileans have their own version of the story, with an Englishman having created the cocktail in the city of Iquique. However, at the time, Iquique was technically in Peru. If I had to score this match, I’d give it to Peru. TKO

The Pisco Sour, anywhere I’ve had it, is made with Pisco, lime juice, simple syrup, egg white, ice and topped with a few dashes of Angostura bitters.


  1. 1 egg white
  2. Pisco – 2 ounces
  3. Simple Syrup – ½ ounce
  4. Lime Juice – ¾ ounce (or one Key lime)
  5. Angostura Bitters – three dashes
  6. Ice cubes

You’ll also need a cocktail shaker.


Fill a cocktail shaker with egg white, ice, Pisco, simple syrup and lime juice.

Shake for at LEAST 10 seconds, but it’s worth shaking for 20.

Strain into a glass (6-8oz), making sure to get the foam into the glass.

Top with three dashes of Angostura bitters.

The wildcard ingredient is the egg white, which it what gives the drink its foam and creaminess. There are other drinks that call for an egg white, like the Ramos Gin Fizz, so it’s not unheard of in the US. But is it safe? Thanks to the invention of Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) the answer is a resounding… probably.

Pasteur created a technique for flash-boiling certain liquids, quickly heating them to kill bacteria but not affect their flavor and characteristics. He created this method to prevent wine from going bad (well done, Louis!), but found that it also worked on eggs and milk. So, the US, Europe and many other countries require their eggs to be “pasteurized,” making them safe to eat without cooking. There are obviously exceptions, but you’re generally in the clear.

Peru does require its dairy products to be pasteurized, so you’re likely going to be fine having one at the Museo Del Pisco, a nice hotel, or clean bar/restaurant. As far as getting one anywhere else, I might pass on that.


Té Macho literally translates to “Manly Tea”, because, quite simply, that’s what it is. It’s tea, with entirely too much sugar added to it, along with some citrus, spices and a generous amount of alcohol.

When were shooting at El Duende, the location that we ended the night at in Cusco, the drink was COMPLETELY overshadowed by José (aka “Daddy Duende”), his gnome companions, and the fact that we had already had a few (plus) drinks at Zenith Brewing right before. While there, we noticed that they use Pisco with their Té Macho, while the drink traditionally calls for cañazo (cahn-YAH-zoe).

Zane drinking Te Macho
This place is nuts… but that’s none of my business. *sips tea*

The difference between pisco and cañazo is like the difference between brandy and rum. Pisco is made from grapes, like grappa or brandy. Cañazo is made from sugar cane. It’s classified as a rum, but it’s technically closer to Brazilian cachaça because cachaça is made from sugar cane juice while rum is made from molasses (the byproduct of the sugar-refining process). If you can’t find pisco or cañazo, you can try grappa, brandy, cachaça, or rum.


  1. Black Tea (although any tea will do) – 2 Liters – 3-4 teabags
  2. Limes – 3
  3. Pineapple – ½ pineapple (some slices or a few cubes)
  4. Cinnamon – 2 sticks (or a dissolved teaspoon)
  5. Cloves – 3 (or a dissolved pinch)
  6. Sugar – 5 tablespoons


Make tea in the pot. While simmering, add in the lime juice, pineapple (you can also use apples or other fruits), spices, and sugar. Take the pot off the heat and add in your booze. This drink is served warm/hot, so add in the pisco/cañazo right before serving.