An important side to traveling in any country is to try local food and drink, and Ecuador is no exception. This is a great opportunity to sample new flavors, explore local culture and meet new people. The good news is that there is a wonderful diversity of Ecuadorian drinks to try, from herbal teas to fruity concoctions & alcoholic tipples. Some play an important part in holiday celebrations and festivals at special times of year. Others are just plain tasty and popular at all times. So, are you ready to try something new?
Keep reading for 8 of the best traditional Ecuadorian drinks that you should try while traveling here.
Traditional Ecuadorian Drinks
There’s nothing quite like a Canelazo to warm yourself up on cold and rainy nights in Quito. One of Ecuador’s signature drinks from the Andes, Canelazo is found all over the country at restaurants, cafes, and fiestas.
Each place has its own recipe, but the typical drink is made from aguardiente liquor, cinnamon, naranjilla (a tart orange fruit), water, and sugar. Served hot, it has just the right blend of spice to offset the sting of the strong alcohol and keep the cold at bay. This Ecuadorian drink is particularly popular during the Fiestas de Quito week, served on the colorful chiva party buses and during the traditional card game of cuarenta (forty).
2. Colada Morada
Colada Morada is a drink that’s traditionally served on Day of the Dead (2nd November). Families gather at the graves of loved ones, and bring guaguas de pan (sweet bread in the shape of a baby), and Colada Morada to honor them.
The drink is made with blue or black corn flour, fruits like Andean blackberries, pineapple rinds, babaco, strawberry and naranjilla, plus sweet pepper, ishpingo, cloves and cinammon spices. Mixed together in a large cooking pot for several hours, this mix thickens into a rich soup-like texture, deep purple in color and very sweet taste.
During the weeks preceding Day of the Dead you can find the combination of bread dolls and colada morada drink in restaurants and cafes in most towns and cities. In truth though there is nothing quite like a home-made colada morada, shared around all the family.
3. Chicha de Piña (Ecuadorian oatmeal pineapple drink)
Our next traditional Ecuadorian drink is Chicha de Piña. This is a pineapple drink that uses spices and sugar to create a refeshing beverage that’s perfect on hot days.
Chicha drink is made by boiling pineapple rinds in water and then adding cinnamon sticks, cloves, anise, allspice, and sugar. Once cool, it’s a great drink that bursts with flavor. In Ecuador, boiling fruit with sugar is a traditional way of making juice, and by adding spices this drink makes a perfect addition to meals or snacks. For a unique and traditional experience, find a cafe overlooking the plazas of Quito or Cuenca cities, or the lush mountain landscapes of the country, and order Chicha de piña to soak up the armosphere like a local.
4. Horchata Tea
Horchata tea is a specialty blend of medicinal herbs that was created in the city of Loja, in the deep south of Ecuador. Unmistakable for it’s pink/purple color, Horchata combines begonia, carnation, chamomile, fuschia, flax, lemongrass, mint, rose geranium and roses to create a rich blend of flavors that sooth and calm. The result is a delightfully refreshing, light fruity infusion, with anti-inflammatory and cholesterol-reducing properties. Served hot or cold, Horchata tea is found at juice carts and restaurants across the sierra highlands, especially in and around Loja
5. Colada de Avena con Naranjilla
Colada de Avena con Naranjilla is an oatmeal and fruit drink found around the country. It’s normally served at breakfast and lunch. For kids, it’s also a staple of afternoon snacks - thick, healthy and richly filling.
This colada drink is made with oats, water, cinnamon, brown sugar, and naranjilla fruit. There are other variations, some add milk, others use fruit like papaya or pineapple. You can even buy it ready made in supermarket cartons.
Considered the national drink of ecuador, Aguardiente is certainly not for the faint hearted. This local fire-water is made from fermented sugar cane juice, and leaves an unmistakable burning sensation all the way down your throat and chest after a strong shot. So, why drink it? It’s cheap, very Ecuadorian, and sure does the job of kicking off many a fun night out.
If you want to really put hairs on your chest, seek out locally made aguardiente. Home-made moonshine is the stuff of legends, tasting like rocket fuel and reaching up to 80 proof.
Some famous Ecuadorian aguardiente brands to look out for include popular Zhumir and Cristal, or artesan style Pajaro Azul (blue bird). Be prepared to have your head blown off!
Ecuador’s answer to Eggnog, Rompope is a creamy alcoholic drink served piping hot. Made with milk, egg yolks, sugar, cinammon, vanilla, condensed milk and rum (or aguardiente), rompope is the perfect winter warmer to drink while curled up in front of an open fire.
8. Guanabana Juice
No list of Ecuadorian drinks would be complete without a tropical fruit juice. Our favorite is made from Guanabana (sour sop). The Guanabana fruit is worth seeing in it’s own right – a large green egg-shaped fruit with spikey skin. Inside the fruit is white and creamy. Locals like to blend it with water or milk, to make a refreshing juice or smoothie with a delicious flavor.
Looking for other unusual fruit juices to try? Check out Babaco, Maracuya (passion fruit), Tree tomato, Naranjilla and Taxo. Most restaurants in Quito serve a mix of these fruit juices to try, and if asked will show you the fruit for photos before cutting it open.
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We trust that you enjoyed our list of top Ecuadorian drinks. Above all, we hope we have inspired you to sample something new when you do visit us in Ecuador :)