The best Latin cocktails in the Americas
We travel for so many reasons—to experience cultures that differ from our own, to listen to foreign sounds and inhale new aromas. Discover unfamiliar dishes or enjoying our favorite cuisine in the country it comes from is a huge part of the adventure of travel. And kicking back with some Latin cocktails while observing the lifestyle of places far different from your own is one of the most enjoyable ways to indulge in the local scene—its certain to generate a few giggles and it often makes it easier to strike up a conversation with a local.
This is our roundup of the best cocktails to try in Latin America—and while you’re at it, remember to learn a few phrases to say cheers with the locals while you’re imbibing. ¡Salud! (sah lood) is used across Spanish-speaking Latin America, but in Brazil, raise your glass and say Saúde! (sah-oo jee).
Thirsty for more? Curious about our tours across Latin America? Check out where you can go and what you can do here.
Getting muddled with limes: Brazilian Caipirinhas
Brazil’s most famous tipple is the Caipirinha, whose primary ingredient is cachaça, a strong clear liquor made from sugar cane—unsurprising given the ubiquity of the plant in Brazil (sugarcane cultivation is one of the country’s biggest industries). The cocktail is made by grabbing a bunch of limes, cutting them into quarters and muddling the segments until it yields a juicy, fragrant mess. Then you add cachaça, sugar and ice and you end up with an ideal cocktail to enjoy on the beach. There’s very little in this drink to dilute the alcohol, so while it goes down as easy as fruit juice it can easily leave you stumbling from the perch of your beach chair.
Made via machete: Colombia’s Coco Loco
Coco Loco means crazy coconut, and its most popular along Colombia’s Caribbean coast where fresh coconuts dot the forests of palm trees. It’s served at beachside bars, but the best way to enjoy it is to hit the stalls lining the beach. Each offers a special twist on the drink, but it’s generally a blend of several liquors—vodka, rum, tequila and whisky are the usual suspects—plus fresh coconut water and coconut cream. It’s a fun drink to order because vendors make it fresh right in front of you by chopping open a coconut with a machete, mixing up the ingredients and serving it to you over ice inside a coconut.
Tequila meets a hangover cure: Margaritas & Micheladas in Mexico
The iconic Mexico margarita is a mix of tequila, lime juice, Cointreau, ice, and a sweetener–ideally agave nectar, but simple syrup (a mix of water and sugar that forms a thick syrup) will do. It’s all thrown into a shaker and poured into a wide-rimmed glass, served with or without salt on the rim. You can serve it strained or on the rocks. Save an extra lime and place a slice on the rim. These drinks are potent—tequila is strung stuff! But if you overindulge, Mexico’s other famous drink is conveniently a hangover cure. The Michelada is a mix of beer (a light lager is best), lime juice, hot sauce, Worcestershire and tomato juices, all poured over ice in a salt-rimmed glass. The spicy mix wakes you up, pronto.
Mint, mint & more mint: Mojitos madness in Cuba
The mojito became a popular drink in the 1930s in Havana, Cuba, where Hemingway toiled away his days sipping and writing. It’s sweet, cold and ideal for Cuba’s humid climate.
What’s in it? White rum, lime juice, sugar, mint, sparkling water and ice. But the key element is the muddler, the tool that smashes the mint and releases its intense flavor. As the sugar and lime is added, it creates a crunchy base that’s topped off with a good few slugs of rum, plenty of ice and a splash of soda water. Refreshing, potent and a fantastic way to cool down on a balmy island evening.
Argentina’s Fernet & Coke
You thought it would be all about Malbec, right? Argentinians do love their wine, but they’re also mad about Fernet & Coke. Fernet, an Italian digestive brought to Argentina by the many Italian immigrants that settled in the country, is an acquired taste and people generally love it or hate it. It’s an herbal bitter, aromatic with lots of spice. Some say tastes like black liquorice, others say its flavor is more minty, almost like menthol. You decide. The recipe is as simple as it gets—a glug of Fernet mixed in with Coca-Cola—but order this drink and you’ll be doing as the locals do, which is often the first step to integrating in a foreign culture. This concoction is considered to be the national drink of Argentina.
Peru versus Chile: The Pisco Sour Debate
Pisco Sours are national drinks in both Chile and Peru, and the two countries exert a heated rivalry over where the drink came from. Pisco, a high-alcohol liquor made from fermented grape juice, is a type of brandy produced in both Chile and Peru. But who invented the cocktail? Peruvians say an American bartender in Lima created it, Chileans claim it originates from Iquique, a town in northern Chile. The bottom line is this: it’s delicious no matter where it came from, and it’s fun to try it in Peru and Chile. The recipe varies a bit between the two countries.
In Peru, bartenders mix up egg white, Pisco, simple syrup, bitters and lime juice, shake it like crazy until it yields a thick froth. It’s served straight up, and as the liquid settles a lovely slice of foam sits on top. In Chile, it’s served the same way but it’s a simpler affair: Pisco, lime juice and simple syrup.
Ecuador’s heartwarming Canelazo
Ecuador is packed with high-elevation cities and regions—Quito, for example, sits at 9,000 feet (2740m). So it’s logical that one of its most famous cocktail is a hot concoction that keeps you warm. The Canelazo mixes aguardiente, cinnamon, water and sugar in a saucepan until it is hot and steamy. Then it’s poured into a mug with a slice of orange and slowly sipped and savored. It’s particularly satisfying on a chilly night and tends to be served around Christmas.