Writer and traveler Ashley Halsey lists her nine favorite drinks in Guatemala. From ice-cold local beers and super-strong traditional liquors to sweet smoothies and exquisite coffees, Guatemala has something for everyone to drink.
Guatemala is a beautiful country with heaps of history and culture to explore.
You may know Guatemala as the land of the Maya, the ancient civilization who built ancient cities like Tikal, the country’s most famous tourist attraction. The Maya are still here, in their traditional dress with their traditional customs.
There’s plenty of colonial history, too, evident in cities like Antigua with its cobbled streets and churches.
And then of course, there’s Guatemalan food.
Indigenous Mayan plus colonial Spanish influences make up modern Guatemalan cuisine.
It’s meat-heavy with tons of stews and soups. In rural regions, you’ll find whole chicken served with their feet still attached!
Other staples include tortillas, beans, rice and cheese.
No meal is complete without a beverage to go with it, though, and this is an article about Guatemalan drinks, so let’s dive in.
Below is a list of some of my favorite drinks in Guatemala, drinks I urge you to try when you visit the Land of Eternal Spring.
Gallo is the beer to drink in Guatemala. The name means ‘rooster’ and you’ll see the famous rooster-head logo all over the place. Brewed since 1896, Gallo is the country’s oldest and best loved beer.
More than a fresh pale lager, Gallo is an institution in Guatemala.
The most famous craft beer in Guatemala is Cabro out of Quetzaltenango, bought out by Gallo a few years ago. It’s another tasty pale lager.
Guatemala is home to some of the best rum in the world, in particular the award-winning Zapaca Centenario. This is the first rum in the world to be included in the International Rum Festival Hall of Fame.
A rum as special as Zapaca should be drank neat or on the rocks. However, many people in Guatemala drink their rum mixed with coke or as part of a cocktail or rum punch.
Zapaca makes a great souvenir or gift to bring home for your rum-loving friends.
Licuados are essentially smoothies. Common throughout Latin America, they come in many forms; milk, yogurt or water blended with your favorite fruits. Papaya, banana, cantaloupe, watermelon, pineapple, mango, and guanabana are all on offer here. Have your licuado with or without sugar. Add orange juice if you want.
Quetzalteca is super strong, so be careful when you’re drinking it. It’s like a local moonshine, a guaro or aguardiente. This means it can be up to 60% percent alcohol by volume. The lower percentage varieties are still around 30%.
It’s made from raw sugar cane, and is potent as a shot or mixed with juice. Look out for Quetzalteca Rosa de Jamaica, a kind of pink moonshine, and Quetzalteca Especial, a grapa-style drink.
Another moonshine best handled with care!
Cusha is a home-brewed corn spirit, made by the Maya for thousands of years, and imbibed during traditional festivities and celebrations.
Be very careful with cusha, there’s no set recipe and some versions can be super-strong. Tradition holds that cusha should be produced with cow dung to sped up fermentation.
6. Ponche de leche
This goes down a treat in the colder Guatemalan highlands. It’s like an eggnog or a rompope, and is drank all over Central America, especially at Christmas. Buy ponche de leche in street markets and add a shot of rum to it to warm the cockles of your heart.
The national hangover cure, picocita has some alcohol in it (the ‘hair of the dog’ concept transcends cultural boundaries) in the form of Gallo beer. It also contains onions, jalapeños, white vinegar, water, salt, lime, and Worcester sauce.
I can’t vouch for whether it’s an effective hangover cure or not, but all the locals seem to swear by it.
Guatemalan coffee could be a whole separate article. In the meantime, here are some of the best coffees you’ll find in Guatemala.
The volcanic soils around the colonial town of Antigua create a rich, unique coffee flavor. The flavor is so unique local growers have trademarked and copyrighted Guatemala Antigua coffee.
Another coffee producing region of Guatemala is in Nueva Oriente. Here, you’ll find warmer weather, and coffee grown on the slopes of volcanoes. This region is famous for its bourbon, catuai, and caturra bean varients.
The Huehuetenango region is also worth pointing out to coffee lovers in Guatemala. Visit Finca El Injerto to learn all about the cultivation and brewing process of your favorite morning cup.
If you’re buying coffee to take home, you can find craft coffees in any of the above places, and all over the country. Or you can also stick with national brands El Cafetalito or Cafe Leon, available in supermarkets everywhere.
9. Limonada con soda
Traveling around Guatemala, you’ll need a refreshing limonada con soda to quench your thirst at some point. It’s fresh-squeezed lemonade and soda water like the name suggests. Delicious!
From beer to rum to fruit smoothies, drinks in Guatemala are delicious.
Just be aware of the strength of the local liquors if you do decide to imbibe. And if hard alcohol doesn’t do it for you, a cold beer, a simple smoothie, or an award-winning Guatemalan coffee will always hit the spot.