The Story of Quetzalteca, Guatemala's Classic Aguardiente

Cool drinks
Cool drinks | © Pixabay
Jack Guy

When you’re in Guatemala, you simply have to try the classic Quetzalteca aguardiente.

Guatemala’s iconic aguardiente

You’ll see the bottles in shops all over the country, with the distinctive label depicting a woman in indigenous dress. There are different sizes available, but the most popular are the pocket-sized ones which sell for as little as $2.

Different flavors are available, including original, tamarind and hibiscus. It remains hugely popular with locals, and it’s cheap. It’s well worth trying if you get bored of beer and fancy drinking like Guatemalans.

A part of the culture

The Quetzalteca brand is part of Industria Licoreras de Guatemala alcohol distillery, which also makes Ron Botran and Venado. It was founded by a family of immigrants from Spain, and the company remains a major player in the alcohol market.

Quetzalteca is sometimes known as “Indita,” due to the picture of the indigenous woman on the bottle. “Indita” is a derogatory slang term for indigenous women, and this nickname has caused increasing controversy in Guatemala.

While the nickname has nothing to do with the company itself, it has ignited debate. Many people want to stop the nickname being used, but changing the habit has proven difficult.

A reputation evolving over time

Interestingly, Quetzalteca was traditionally regarded as a lower-class drink, but things have changed in recent years. Since the release of the hibiscus flavor in 2011, middle and upper-class drinkers have been driving sales. These days you can find it in trendy bars in Guatemala City as well as neighborhood shops across the country, and many people see the drink as a symbol of national pride.

The tamarind and hibiscus flavors can be sickly sweet if you drink them straight, and many people mix Quetzalteca with lemonade and ice. At 36 degrees proof, you might be glad of a mixer if you don’t want to get too drunk too quickly.

Culture Trips launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes places and communities so special.

Our immersive trips, led by Local Insiders, are once-in-a-lifetime experiences and an invitation to travel the world with like-minded explorers. Our Travel Experts are on hand to help you make perfect memories. All our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

All our travel guides are curated by the Culture Trip team working in tandem with local experts. From unique experiences to essential tips on how to make the most of your future travels, we’ve got you covered.

Edit article