Backpackers are, in general, a bar loving crowd. Often the best place to meet other travelers to swap stories and advice is the pub nearest your hostel. Plenty of hostels have figured this out and now have bars right in the lobby. Even if you’re not a big drinker yourself, you’ll no doubt find yourself in a bar or two during your South America travel adventure.
So, whether you are just not a big drinker or you are trying to avoid having a hangover on your early morning bus trip, here are 5 great non-alcoholic drinks that you can order and still feel like you are getting a “taste” of the culture.
Head to Argentina or Uruguay and you will no doubt see plenty of yerba mate. People walking around with thermoses and gourd cups day and night, sipping their mate. Mate is said to be similar to coffee, in that is wakes you up, but has less side effects and less of a crash afterwards. It is mainly shared in social settings with the mate gourd cup being passed around from person to person and refilled with hot water from the thermos.
Made with coconut milk and lemons, this drink is found all along Central American and as far south as Rio in Brazil. The tartness of the lemonade is perfectly balanced with the sweet coconut milk without needed a lot of sugar. That really helps out in the hot, humid Caribbean heat where a sugar rush and the following crash can seriously dehydrate you.
Most often associated with Mexico (or Spain), horchata is actually found in a number of Latin American countries. The smooth, milky drink is made differently in each country but usually has a mixture of cinnamon, sugar, vanilla, and one of the following – rice, ground almonds or sesame seeds, barley or tigernuts. The drink is traditionally made at home but can now be found in many restaurants and even prepackaged in supermarkets.
Who would have thought – purple corn makes for a perfect drink! Chicha actually refers to a fermented alcoholic drink but in many South American countries they serve a non-alcoholic version of this corn juice called chicha morada. Made by cooking sweet purple corn with fruit, cinnamon, and cloves, chicha morada comes out looking a bit like the purple kool-aid from your childhood but tastes quite a bit better.
You can’t go to Latin America and not have a great cup of coffee. Grown from Mexico to South America, coffee is one of Latin America’s most important crops. Each country has their own version of how coffee should be served, from milky, sweet versions to straight scolding hot shots of espresso. Book a tour of a coffee plantation to learn more about the growing and harvesting of this well loved drink.
Couple Travel Tips
- Always watch your drink and be sure your partner doesn’t leave the bar without you at the end of the night. It is far too easy to spike a drink, even a non-alcoholic one.
- With that in mind, if you are not drinking for the night, offer to keep an eye on other travelers. Sticking together and not letting anyone wander off drunk is just the right thing to do.
- Drinking in South America is a much more social event. Friends will often meet up, pool their money together to buy a bottle of alcohol, and drink together all night. Even if you aren’t drinking, it might be worth it to pitch in a bit of money and enjoy the company.