When in Peru there is one thing that I can highly recommend trying, if only for the cultural experience. That is the traditional local brew that goes by the name of Chicha. Chicha is an alcoholic drink made from fermented maize and there is now way of knowing exactly how alcoholic it is as it all depends on how long it has been left to ferment.
I have to admit, it’s a little difficult to explain the taste and if I try then I will probably put you off wanting to try it! I would say the closest resemblance is mixing the taste of maize (obviously!) and vodka together. Please don’t let this put you off though as it is a remarkably thirst quenching drink and is known in Peru as the local version of ‘Red Bull’ for its energy giving properties. I’m not quite sure if this drink does indeed contain such properties or if in fact it’s just a ploy by men to have an excuse to drink copious amounts of this liquid.
During my time in Peru, I never found this drink for sale in any of the bars, and this is the joy of the drink, as you get to take a step from the normal tourist trail. While the drink can be found at the numerous street vendors around Lima, it is in and around the city of Cusco and the Sacred Valley where the quality and taste is the finest. In this area Chicha is brewed by local households looking to earn a little extra money and therefore where you can buy it can literally change on a daily basis. The way to know is to look for a red plastic bag attached to the front of the house. Such a sing acknowledges that there is Chicha for sale. Similarly if you see a white flag, then there is sugar can spirit for sale, which I think the equivalent that I know of is paint-stripper.
My experience of drinking Chicha rates as one of my best moments during my time in Peru, even when taking such well known sights of Macchu Picchu into the equation. Upon finding a house with a red plastic bag, I was led through the house to a bedroom at the back, where a makeshift table had been set up for Chicha loving drinkers. As I sat at the table, Guinea Pigs and Chickens roaming around the floor (yes, in the bedroom!), supping my Chicha, I had the feeling that I must have been the first Gringo ever to visit the house, let alone drink Chicha there as well. The whole family came in to say hello and watch me drink every mouthful. Luckily I enjoyed it!
One cup (equivalent to almost a pint) costs 1 Peruvian Nuevo Sole, which works out to be approximately $0.30, and for such a ludicrous low price, the surreal experience is well worth it.