I was working on another cocktail project when I ran across a drink called chicha. Popular in Central and South America, the cocktail is made with vegetables and fruits. Varieties of chicha vary from country to country, and even then, within one country recipes can vary by region. Either corn, rice or quinoa are the main ingredients in most of the recipes I found, with supporting flavors added from pineapple, strawberries, amaranth, bananas, plantains, potatoes and vanilla. In Chile, chicha is commonly produced with apples and grapes – probably due to its rich history of winemaking. In the Amazon basin, yucca root is commonly used.
One chicha recipe intrigued me the most: It’s called Chicha Andina, from Táchira State in Venezuela. There, chicha is made with corn and fermented pineapple, as well as cinnamon and cloves for additional flavor. Throughout my career I’ve seen corn and pineapple paired together in corn salsas, and I’ve mixed pineapple juice with cinnamon in cocktails; I’ve made sauces out of corn and corn stock and have been to bourbon distilleries where huge vats of corn ferment on the path to becoming whiskey. Despite all those experiences, I never thought about putting corn kernels in a cocktail.
The corn used to prepare Chicha Andina makes all the difference. A majority of chicha recipes call for blue corn as it’s most abundant in Central America and South America. For my take on the recipe, I used Midwest-grown sweet yellow corn, and it worked like a charm. Feel free to try different varieties of corn to your taste in the recipe. The process is the same, but the flavor will change.
I’ve tried this recipe with several types of rum. All are palatable, but Rhum Agricole works the best, specifically a younger aged one. Dark rums brought a fall baking spice flavor, which was a bit too sweet for my taste. White rums produced a bright cocktail, and the effects and flavors of the corn milk were too subdued.
Serves | 1 |
- 1½ oz Clément V.S.O.P. Rhum Agricole Vieux
- 1 oz fresh corn milk (recipe below)
- ½ oz fresh pineapple juice
- ½ oz cinnamon syrup (recipe below)
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- 1 cinnamon stick (for garnish)
- 1 piece baby corn (for garnish)
| Preparation | In a cocktail shaker, combine all ingredients except ice and garnish and shake to combine. Add ice, shake once more and strain into a double Old Fashioned glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with cinnamon stick and baby corn and serve.
Make Your Mixers
Yields | 5 oz |
- kernels removed from 1 ear corn
- 1⁄3 cup water
| Preparation | In a blender, combine corn kernels with water and blend on high for 10 seconds. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer and use immediately or bottle and refrigerate (will keep in refrigerator for 2 days).
Yields | 15 oz |
- 5 cinnamon sticks
- 2 tsp dried orange peel
- 12 oz granulated sugar
- 12 oz water
| Preparation | In a pot over medium heat, muddle cinnamon sticks, orange peel and sugar until sticks break down into small pieces. Add water and turn heat to high. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer, and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer and use immediately or bottle and refrigerate (will keep in refrigerator for 1 month).
Matt Seiter is co-founder of the United States Bartenders’ Guild’s St. Louis chapter, a member of the national board for the USBG’s MA program, author of The Dive Bar of Cocktails Bars, bartender at BC’s Kitchen and a bar and restaurant consultant.