(Approximate reading time: 6 minutes)

What is really special about tourism destinations? For some people it is the charm to be away from all what is familiar in their everyday life. Others prefer to just relax and disconnect from all the problems and sorrows at home. For me it is the curiosity to contact and understand people with a different mindset to understand their way of life and adapt in phases to their ancestral culture. What makes culture interesting and distinct for others are customs, traditions, dresses, dances and music. For me it is apart from that always interesting to get to know the food and drinks of people and what they have to tell about it.

Especially local and traditional drinks are rare to find in times of nationwide distribution of all sorts of soft drinks, alcoholic beverages, etc. Or are you really happy when you see another sign at a restaurant or kiosk, that Heineken, Coca Cola or Red Bull is sold and offered? It’s probably more difficult to find local drinks in a visited region than typical plates. And especially this search makes it very interesting to find something typical that you didn’t know before.

During my last trip to the highlands of Peru I also traveled to Puno. This city is famous for the Lake Titicaca and located on 3810m above the sea level. It can get quite cold here during the nights of the winter months and I had the joy to visit it in July, what is at the same time the coldest months in average according to the climatic statistics:

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Life seems to be tough and inhospitable in a city like Puno. Because of that, local people are relying on a drink during the evening hours to get warmed up. This drink is ‘quite new’ and only consumed since more than 40 years, when it was invented by a local barman from Puno.

Huack…?! Huaç…?! Huatsch…?! HUAJSAPATA!

I still need to laugh a little bit about this name, because I had my problems at the beginning to pronounce it correctly. Huack…?! Huaç…?! Huatsch…?!

Huajsapata! With a J – Try to pronounce it like a hhrrr and try to imitate the animal sound of a wildcat. A wild hiss. Sapata almost pronounces itself from alone, that’s not really difficult. Huajsapata – Outside from Puno, Peruvian people don’t know either the drink, nor the difficult name with its pronunciation. Therefore, it is a super-endemic drink from Puno and you’ll be one of the few to try it.

And again it’s difficult to obtain additional information about a Peruvian drink like Huajsapata. No official Wikipedia entry, no history, no existence. As if the people from Puno keep a secret around this beverage to let it shine a little bit more mysterious than its name already is. So I have to dig a little bit deeper into it to find what I am looking for.

“Hill of Huajsapta, witness of my loves, only you are knowing the life I’m going through.”

Yes, a subliminal melancholy is always attached to a Peruvian native soil when talking about home. At least these were the thoughts of the barkeeper who invented this hot cocktail to warm up during the cold nights of Puno. The drink got his name from a hill that is close to Puno. But what exactly is part of the Huajsapata?

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Hot wine means here red wine. But believe me, if I say, that this in combination with Pisco (a distilled brandy made out of grapes) and fruit essences is a formula that would even warm you up during hot summer days. But there aren’t any hot summer days, if you remember the statistic I showed you earlier. So it warms up during cold winter nights.

Fruit essences? That’s quite vague, don’t you agree?

Yes, I do agree and asked therefore the waiter to explain to me which fruit essences exactly are inside of this hot cocktail. It’s not limited to anything specific and can mean essences flavored with grenadine, orange bitters, spices like cinnamon or cloves, and sometimes even a bit of orange peel. Woah, what a wild mix!

As I described it earlier in another article on my blog, it is very common for the Andean kitchen to serve food and drinks in a ceramic crockery. That’s also a great idea for Mr. Huajsapata, because you’d burn yourself touching a glass with your fingers. Huajsapata is an economic alternative to have a booze. I paid maybe 8 Soles, which are not more than 2 Euro.

Only freezing during a cold night in Puno is cheaper.

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