Every time I arrived at a zocalo in Mexico, I was offered a cup of steaming brown liquid. At first, I was put off. Then, I was obsessed.
I quickly realised atole was just one of the many crave-inspiring drinks you could find in Mexico. From the creamy champurrado to icy-cold horchata, Mexico is home to an amazing range of hot, spicy, sweet drinks – that don’t involve tequila. Here are just 10 recommendations.
Atole, the drink that I first fell in love with, is a pre-Hispanic drink made from cornmeal and either water or milk. It said to have been traditionally used in sacred Aztec ceremonies. It’s hot, creamy and just what you want to drink on a frosty, windswept morning (with a tamale or two). You can sweeten it with brown sugar or honey and also find variations with cinnamon, vanilla, nuts and guayaba.
This is basically the chocolate version of atole. Like atole, champurrado dates back to Aztec times. Not having been introduced to sugar, the Aztecs used cacao grains to sweeten atole. Over time the chocolate version became a drink in its own right – champurrado. While champurrado is served across Mexico, the most delicious version is meant to come from Oaxaca, which – unsurprisingly – is considered the land of chocolate. Get our recipe here.
Rompope is Mexico’s take on the Spanish poche de huevo, or eggnog. It’s made with egg yolks, vanilla, canela, milk and sugar and is exactly as you would imagine it to be – rich, creamy and slightly tangy. You can drink it hot or cold and it is particularly popular as an after-dinner nightcap. The legend goes it was first made in the Santa Clara convents in Puebla back in the 1600s when nuns used to entertain church authorities and government officials.
It would be hard to visit Mexico without trying horchata, a milky sweet drink made from rice and almond milk, cinnamon and vanilla. Found in every aguas frescas store, in local markets and even in zocalos, horchata is an absolute essential. Try walking around the midday heat without this delicious, icy saviour and you’ll see why it is such an important part of everyday Mexican life.
Pozol is a mix of fermented corn dough, cacao beans, water and sugar best served with a chingo of ice. Not to be confused with pozole (a traditional Mexican soup), pozol is a sweet and slightly tangy treat that is drunk from morning to night. And it is more than just a thirst quencher. According to local indigenous communities, the drink also has many healing properties.
This bubbly, ruby-pink soda is the typical drink of León, Guanajuato. You’ll find it sold from little carritos in the city’s centro historico, alongside greasy guacamayas. It’s named cebadina after its main ingredient – cebada or barley – and is sweetened with fruit like pineapple and tamarind while bicarbonate soda gives it its fizz.
Dubbed the “drink of the Gods,” tejate dates back to pre-Hispanic times when it was used in religious ceremonies. It is still very popular today, particularly in San Andres Huayapam, just outside of Oaxaca, where it has its own festival. One sip of this refreshing brew of maize, cacao, mamey and cacao flower, and you’ll understand why it’s so celebrated.
Pinole is a sweet cornmeal-based drink that can be drunk either hot or cold. Don’t be put off by the yellow-brown colour. This thick, starchy drink is delicious. Think cream with cinnamon and vanilla. Or a richer version of horchata. In fact, pinole is so popular it is found across the Americas in all different guises.
Popular in Chiapas, tascalate is a traditional chocolate drink that was first registered back in 1566 by the Bishop Diego de Landa. It’s prepared with toasted maize, cacao and chilli – so it tastes like a spicy iced chocolate. What’s not appealing about that combination?
This pre-Hispanic drink is a rich, bitter concoction of over 32 herbs including mint, oregano, salvia and thyme, as well as aguardiente. Meaning “medicine of the heart” in Náhuatl, yolixpa has traditionally been used to cure illness but is also drunk casually with sweeteners like honey and cane sugar. Like pinole, it also has its own festival, with over 6,000 people celebrating the pre-Hispanic beverage.
Did somebody say ice-cold pineapple drink? Made from fermented pineapple and cane sugar, tepache is one of Mexico’s most popular drinks – perfect for steamy, summer nights and long bus trips. With its extra medicinal benefits, it’s no wonder why this blood-orange fruity thirst quencher has become a national favourite. Here's a recipe you can make at home for mint pineapple tepache.
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These Spanish doughnuts are made for dunking in hot chocolate. Their distinctive star shape is the secret to a crunchy exterior and fluffy centre.
These doughnuts - donas de chocolate Mexicano - are made using a special filled pancake pan, but you can also make them as regular pancakes, and serve the filling as a topping.
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