There is a rich history of beverages in Guatemala, some dating back to pre-colonial times and the Mayan Empire. Across the country you can find a wide variety of beers, spirits, and non-alcoholic drinks, many of which are nearly impossible to find outside of Central America.
Try as many of the drinks that Guatemala has to offer that you can. They range from refreshing and sweet to bitter and dangerously potent. One drink you do want to avoid, however, is the tap water. Unpurified water carries bacteria that can make you seriously ill. Always ask for bottled water when eating out (agua pura or agua purificada), and pick up bottles from the market to keep with you while you're out.
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 in the U.S.
Dorada is a 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 alcoholic drink. The country also 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 by itself on the rocks (just make sure the ice is made from purified water). 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 percent 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 prepared fresh in some grocery stores, but 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, plantains or rice, and sugar.