Before setting foot in Guatemala, you might want to build up your tolerance for alcohol, because this country loves to drink. Perhaps it's because of the tradition in which a man wanting to marry a girl had to first prove to her father how much he could drink. The more moonshine (cusha) the man could drink, the easier he could prove his worth to his potential father-in-law.
Brewed in Guatemala City, the most famous Guatemalan drink is Gallo—the country's national beer that is heavily ingrained in the culture. The country also produces some of the best rum in the world, especially Zacapa Centenario. Make sure you have a full stomach before trying quetzalteca—this raw cane liquor really packs a punch. If you do happen to overdo it, you're in luck because Guatemala naturally has its own hangover drink called picocita.
As for nonalcoholic Guatemalan drinks, you must try the limonada con soda; it's so good that you'll want to make it back home. Fruit shakes called licuados are thick fruit smoothies. Coffee is also popular.
One thing not to drink: The water. Don't ruin your trip by drinking unpurified tap water. Even in the cities, you risk getting a disease from the water. Ask for bottled water ( agua pura or agua purificada) in stores, restaurants, and hotels. You might also want to use purified water while brushing your teeth.
Gallo beer is a cultural force in Guatemala. Gallo means rooster, and you'll see the beer's rooster-head logo in advertisements everywhere. The medium-strength lager is the country's oldest continually brewed beer, dating back to 1896, and is brewed in Guatemala City, the nation's capital. Don't fear not being able to find Gallo—it's in nearly every bar, restaurant and Guatemalan's private refrigerator. Think of this ubiquitous Guatemalan drink as the country's equivalent to Budweiser.
Dorada is a Euro pale lager brewed by the same company that produces Gallo. Cervecería Centro Americana, founded in 1886, produces its beers in Guatemala's capital. Varieties of Dorada include Dorada Draft and Dorada Ice. It can be a little harder to find than Gallo.
Guaro is a favorite liquor distilled from sugar cane. Guaro is fiery with a slightly sweet taste and can be served as a shot or in a cocktail. It can be hard to find in the United States, so you might want to stock up while you're here.
Another favorite beer of Guatemalans is Victoria. This medium-intensity pale lager is also made by the makers of Gallo and Dorada. This slightly sweet beer with notes of grain is refreshing on a hot day at one of Guatemala's beautiful beaches.
Beer isn't the only popular Guatemalan drink. The country distills some of the world's best rum. The standout brand is Zacapa Centenario, an award-winning rum made in eastern Guatemala. Some varieties are aged for as long as 30 years. Try it over ice; just make sure the water is purified. A bottle makes a great gift for those back home.
Sit down while having Quetzalteca because it can really sneak up on you. Quetzalteca is an aguardiente, which means it's between 29- and 60-percent alcohol by volume. This potent raw cane liquor is great when mixed with juice but can also be drunk as a shot. Varieties include Quetzalteca Rosa de Jamaica, a strong yet sweet pink moonshine, and Quetzalteca Especial, a grape-style drink.
Limonada con Soda
Limonada con soda is a thirst-quenching drink popular in Guatemala. This is a must-try beverage, especially on a hot day. It's made of fresh-squeezed lemon or lime juice, sugar. and carbonated mineral water. You'll find it in some grocery stores here, and if you have a hankering for it back home, it's simple to make.
This Guatemalan drink is a delicious blended fruit smoothie. Many different fruits grow here, which increases all the different licuado combinations. First, start with milk/yogurt or water. Then add your favorite fruits: Banana, papaya, cantaloupe, watermelon, pineapple, mango, or guanabana. Sometimes orange juice is added. Sugar is often added, but you can ask for it without. Licuados are served at many restaurants, so you won't have a hard time finding this tasty drink. If you're concerned about drinking the water in Guatemala (and you should be), make sure to have your licuado made with milk or yogurt rather than water. An extra precaution would be to choose fruit that requires peeling because it hasn't been exposed to tap water.
With all the drinking done in Guatemala, it's only fitting that it has its own special hangover cure. Picocita appropriately has some hair of the dog in it—usually Gallo Draft. It's described as ceviche but without the fish. The ingredients are onions, jalapeño peppers, white vinegar, water, beer, salt, lime, and Worcestershire sauce. It's sold at ceviche stands.
Another favorite Guatemalan drink is coffee. The country produces some of the best coffee in the world, but it can be hard to find outside of tourist areas. In outlying areas, you're most likely to get instant coffee with powdered milk. Guatemalans drink their coffee with milk and a lot of sugar. In the country's highlands, sometimes atole is drunk instead. This is a hot, sweet drink made with corn, plantain or rice and sugar.