Having been here for about seven weeks, it seems like a good time to explain how I’ve been staying hydrated. The water in Perú is a tricky little thing; although it’s fine for bathing and brushing your teeth, drinking it straight from the tap is akin to gastrointestinal suicide. So what do you drink when you just don’t feel like boiling a pot of water?*
Inca Cola. Ahh, the magical, golden, fizzy beverage that looks like pee but tastes like bubblegum. This stuff is fantastic, in that it’s available everywhere, tastes like candy and make you feel extra cultural. Served whichever way you like, in a glass bottle, plastic cup or pitcher, Inca Cola is the #1 selling soft drink in Perú (Take that, Coke!). I favor Inca Cola ‘Zero’, because it is a tad less cavity-inducing than the original, but I still consume enough of this carbonated treasure to rival the locals.
Ponche. Now this one’s a little less common, but I love it so much I can’t avoid a paragraph. Ponche, first tasted in Ayacucho, is a hot, creamy beverage whose closest comparison is eggnog…but ponche is a totally different story. The taste (and texture, for that matter) is similar to liquefied rice pudding, complete with the appropriate spices and heavy cream. It’s best drunk when it’s piping hot and the weather is freezing cold, making it, in my mind, the perfect winter pick-me-up. I’ve determined to find a recipe for this stuff, so I can perfect my ponche in time for Thanksgiving.
Limonada Frozen. More popular in the warmer months, Limonada Frozen is exactly what it sounds like: limeade, loaded with sugar and blended with ice to make a limeade slushie. Ordering a pitcher of this stuff in a restaurant is the best decision you could make; sweet and sour flavors complement any food you’re eating (kind of like Inca Cola), and the frigid temperature gives you a nice, refreshing burst. It’s also insanely amusing to watch people try to pour it without splashing themselves.
(The next time I go out, I’m planning on ordering a pitcher of this…and five shots of tequila. It’s been frustrating, not encountering a single bartender here who knows what a “Frozen Margarita” is. If I can popularize “Tequila Limonada [Frozen]”, my contribution to the discos of Perú will be made.)
*Don’t say, “bottled water”. That’s boring, and you’re cramping my creative style.