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With coronavirus making travel a tricky and even potentially dangerous prospect this year, we’re embracing the summer staycation. All week (and all summer) long, we’ll bring you transportive flavors and travel-inspired ideas from around the world, so you can take your tastebuds on a trip and give your mind a mini vacation while you’re still at home. Here, a taste of Peru through one of its most iconic beverages—the vibrant, but not boozy, chicha morada.

For the non-drinkers in your life, rather than simply relying on the old splash-of-cran-in-some-sparkling-cider trick while others enjoy fun cocktails and punches this summer, why not get acquainted with a wholesome, lightly spiced refreshment that is enjoyed as a refresco in Peru year-round?

Chicha morada is the official soft drink of Peru, one with more love and tradition built in than your typical non-alcoholic fare. Several bartenders with Peruvian background or restaurant pedigree chime in on the what, why, and how of this beloved, no-ABV punch, with encouragement on how to incorporate it in your own Northern Hemisphere festivities.

What Is Chicha Morada?

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“Chicha morada is a beverage originated in the Andean regions of Peru but is actually consumed at a national level,” explains Christian Asca, Peruvian native and former bartender at New York’s Pio Pio.

“It is made from purple corn, pineapple rinds, cinnamon, clove, and quartered apples, then sweetened a bit and (balanced) with added lime juice,” contributes Peruvian bartender Juan C. Castillo.

The purple corn is the key to the vibrancy of its color, but the collective impact of those ingredients are what make it really shine.

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“It not only offers a beautifully rich magenta hue, but it often utilizes the pineapple skin which is often tossed as waste,” adds Mary Kelly, from Washington D.C.’s former temple of South American gastronomy, Del Campo

Related Reading: Easy Ways to Fight Food Waste

How Is Chicha Morada Used?

Chicha morada is as versatile a beverage—and beverage ingredient—as they come; it works well cold or hot, on its own, or as a component for mocktails and cocktails alike. “As a soft drink, drink it super cold, with ice and diced apples,” says Castillo, a simple presentation that gives the impression and fun of a non-alcoholic sangria.

“Delicious with lime and club soda,” says Kelly, “it can also be incorporated into the traditional Pisco Sour to enhance the creativity in Peru’s national cocktail.”

For a feisty, but zero-proof take on a Kir Royale, use the sweet chicha morada as the kicker to a zesty apple soda such as DRY Fuji Apple, or an extra spicy ginger beer.

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How Is Chicha Morada Made?

“The traditional preparation consists of boiling the purple corn in water along with pineapple peels and adding a pinch of cinnamon and a few cloves,” explains Asca. “Once the substance is boiled, strain and let cool to add sugar, and in some cases, chopped fruit and lemon.”

The rationale behind the pineapple skin is that you can save the pulp for other uses, and make use of the abundant rind rather than waste it, especially since the mixture gets strained before serving. “Pineapple skin adds a fresh brightness to the flavor, helping balance the corn itself,” explains Castillo. This chicha morada recipe gives some ratios to begin with, but once you have the hang of it, it’s very easy to experiment.

According to Asca: “The preparation is really easy and you can play with different fruit you like, and you can use different spices and herbs like cardamom and lavender if you want to make something different. To drink chicha morada for me is a way to remember my home in Peru when my grandmother cooked it for the family every Sunday.”

Related Reading: A Beginner’s Guide to Peruvian Food

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Header image courtesy of Paolo1899/Getty Images.

Pamela Vachon is a freelance writer based in Astoria, NY whose work has also appeared on CNET, Cheese Professor, Alcohol Professor, and Diced. She is also a certified sommelier, voiceover artist, and an avid lover of all things pickled or fermented.
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