Following yesterday’s post on what we’ve been eating on the road, here’s a selective A-Z of what we’ve been drinking in Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay.



Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay
Of course.



Aguas saborizadas
levite-925Literally, ‘flavoured waters‘, although that rather stingey term doesn’t do them justice. Numerous brands sought our attention when we pulled in at service stations and almacenes across Argentina for something cold and refreshing; our favourite became Villa del Sur Levité, and especially the pomelo (grapefruit) version. We got through gallons in the desert heat.



Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay
willcoffee-800Everybody drinks it, but no one pays much attention to it. We were expecting to find a real coffee culture in Brazil, mostly because they grow so much of the stuff there. But apart from an interesting coffee museum/café in Santos, once a focal point for coffee traders, and a slick shop/bar in Curitiba’s excellent market, we found it paid surprisingly little attention.



caipirinha-1024Brazil’s moreish national cocktail consists of a slug of potent cachaça, the juice of a few limes, a spoonful of sugar and a fistful of ice. Given the price of the raw ingredients – for the usual bar price of R$8-R$10 a cocktail, or a bit under £3, you can get a litre of cachaça good enough to serve to people like us who don’t know any better – it’s hardly surprising that bartenders and waiters are so keen to pimp them to any tourist who stumbles into their crosshairs.



Caldo de cana
caldo-1024When we cycled around Cuba a few years ago, we were fuelled by the miracle of guarapa, pale green juice extracted from sugar cane by Heath Robinsonian milling machines. Feed it to a cyclist already fuelled by coffee, and mountains become molehills. Resigned to it having vanished from our lives forever, we were delighted to find it in Brazil as caldo de cana, served mostly from roadside shacks over ice for R$2-R$3 (55p-80p) a cup.



Bitter aperitifs are popular in Argentina, and it was a pleasure to reacquaint ourselves with this popular favourite. It’s often served with orange juice, and the taste is strong enough to cut through the fact that the juice itself is often thin and weedy.



Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay


In Brazil, cerveja is usually listed on menus with the soft drinks, and with good reason. It’s unlikely that even their respective brewers can tell the difference between the likes of Antárctica, Skol (Skol!) and Brahma, all of which are served at temperatures cold enough to eliminate any suspicion of flavour they might once have possessed. (And all of which, perhaps not coincidentally, are now owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev, most famous for producing Budweiser.) There are a few microbreweries, especially in southern Brazil, and a handful of bars serving what Britons now call craft beer at predictably elevated prices; we enjoyed two visits to Lagom in Porto Alegre, for instance. But we’re talking haystacks and needles. Things aren’t much better in neighbouring Uruguay, where the national cerveza is a nondescript thing called Patricia.

There are more signs of life in Chile, and not just at Santiago’s excellent Cervecería Nacional: at other bars, the ubiquitous likes of Escudo or Cristal are often supplemented by beers from the likes of the historic Austral in Patagonia and the newer, smaller Szot microbrewery. Good beer is similarly common in Argentina, with slick brewery chain Antares supplemented by numerous smaller operations. From the mainstream, we enjoyed the curiously sweet Quilmes Stout.



Coco gelado
ruthcoconut-1024That fearsome cutlass lying on the counter of the beachfront stall isn’t evidence of Brazil’s violent crime culture. Rather, after the usual greetings, your host will use it to slice the top from the grass-green, football-sized coconut he’s just pulled from the freezer. Hoovered up through a straw, the water inside is clear, refreshing and less sweet than you might expect. Depending on the calibre of the beach, R$4 or R$5 (£1-£1.50) is the going rate.



Fernet Branca
The popularity of this brand of Italian cough medicine – a Mediterranean Jägermeister, more or less – is a hangover from waves of Italian immigration. Grown-ups in restaurants take it as an aperitif, usually in a glass with Coca-Cola and ice. Students in the park dispense with both the ice and the glass, instead cutting the top from a giant bottle of Coke, tipping in a bottle of Fernet and drinking it as if from a punch bowl.



Although Red Bull is available in Brazil, guaraná – and, to be specific, Guaraná Antárctica, the most visible brand – is what Brazilians drink when they need waking up. (It’s particularly prominent in the fridges at gas stations.) The vaguely fruity taste is far less offensive than Red Bull, though the drink’s real appeal is its high levels of caffeine.



Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay
willmate-640We first saw people slurping maté in southern Brazil, where it’s known as chimarrão. However, it was while travelling to our language school in the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo each morning that we really noticed the hold that this traditional, caffeine-rich drink has on some people. As we boarded the bus, we’d find ourselves surrounded by commuters each clutching a distinctive cup and straw in one hand and toting a Thermos of hot water awkwardly under the other arm, like a child wedded to a blanket or a streetcorner alcoholic glued to a bottle of brandy. In homes and offices, cups of maté are passed between friends, relations and colleagues, a social bonding ritual perhaps not dissimilar to the English cuppa. The drink itself is perfectly disgusting.



Mote con huesillos
mote-1024The origins of most traditional drinks, the ways in which they come into being and take hold of a community, are mysterious. However, perhaps no drink we’ve seen is as mystifying as the sweet, peculiar and terrifyingly moreish mote con huesillos, which has three distinct components: sugared cinnamon water, sometimes sweetened further with honey; dried peaches, dropped whole into the water; and wheat. It’s sold from streetcorner carts in towns and cities, if you’re lucky, and we will be sad when we cross the border and it disappears forever.



pap-1024Overwhelmed by sugar, carbonated to near-explosive capabilities and apparently coloured by a team of five-year-olds, Chile’s soft drinks are not its finest feature. More orange than an orange, Pap is purported to be papaya-flavoured, although any resemblance to an actual fruit is surely accidental. Other garish, monosyllabic options, best requested with an exclamation mark, include Kem (green, reputedly pineapple), Pop (purple, apparently grape) and Bilz (red, God only knows).



Sucos de frutas/jugos naturales
Brazil, Chile
The wealth of natural produce in Brazil makes it difficult for any bar or restaurant to skimp on the freshness of their fruit juice. Suco de laranja (orange juice) arrives directly from the squeezer; maracujá (passion fruit) is another favourite. Fresh juice is also widely available in northern Chile, with mango especially popular. Healthy living for travellers is much easier when it’s the local way of life.



Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay
Argentina’s wine industry continues to thrive, but its spoils aren’t just for the legions of international wine tourists who flood to Mendoza to tour its vineyards by car, coach or bicycle. Fruity malbecs dominate, though we’ve also enjoyed plenty of sweetish, white torrontés (often from the north, near Salta). It’s all very cheap, and gets cheaper the further north you travel.

By contrast, vinho is priced as a premium product in Brazil, with utter filth rarely seen in restaurants for less than R$25-R$30 (£7-£8.50) a bottle and anything vaguely drinkable starting at R$50 (£14). We started to see more Brazilian varieties the further south we travelled, especially among the Italian and German communities prominent in the states of Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul.



from Arica, XV, Chile