CULTURE Fiestas Patrias

The Terremoto Cocktail – an earthquake personified

Did you feel that? Anyone who has spent some time in Chile knows that small to medium earthquakes are quite a common occurrence and usually not enough to get a reaction out of the locals. Nonetheless, there is one type of ‘earthquake’ that is sure to get anyone’s legs shaking beneath them.

The terremoto, or earthquake in Spanish, is a traditional Chilean drink aptly named for its ability to knock even the most seasoned drinkers off their feet. The drink is extremely popular in Chile and is enjoyed at parties, gatherings, during holidays, or just while catching up with friends at a local restaurant.

What’s in the terremoto?

The terremoto was created at the end of the 20th century, following the 1985 earthquake. Many rumors encircle it and stories are told about its origins, but none have been confirmed. The recipe varies from place to place but the barebones are:

  • Pipeño: a sweet fermented Chilean (white) wine that has a relatively short fermentation period and does not use noble grape
  • Pineapple ice cream
  • Grenadine syrup or bitter liquor
  • Bonus: Fernet, Pisco, Rum, Cognac, Vodka, etc based on preference

The preparation of the drink is exceptionally simple. Three to five tablespoon of ice cream are heaped into a large class, pipeño is poured almost to the rim and a generous gallop of Grenadine syrup or Fernet is added on top giving the drink a colorful appearance. The taste is extremely sweet and may take some time to get used to. For those without an acute sweet tooth it is recommended to substitute the Grenadine for other liquors or to limit its amount.  

Is it really that strong?

Yes! Despite its sweet taste and juvenile, colorful appearance, the terremoto should not be taken lightly as it is an extremely potent drink. The sweet Pipeño alcohol mixed with the sugary pineapple ice cream and the super sweet syrup is a lethal combination that immediately enters the bloodstream.

Many first time drinkers make the mistake of drinking several terremotos while sitting down and find themselves unable to stand up shortly after. It is also easy to be deceived by the sweet taste, which makes it so easy to keep sipping without much thought. No matter what alcohol tolerance you may think you have, the recommended limit is no more than 2 or 3 drinks to guarantee being able to walk out on your own two feet. Fair warning!

Where to experience the Terremoto?

The terremoto can be found at almost any Chilean bar or restaurant across the country. During the September holidays it is impossible not to find it as almost every Chilean at any party will have one in their hand. Nonetheless, the most popular place to taste this drink is at La Piojera, which is a picada, a dive bar or a cheap, yet good local restaurant.

La Piojera is located right in the center of Santiago, just five minute walk from Plaza de Armas, steps from metro Puente Cal y Canto (Yellow Line) and is extremely popular with locals and tourists alike. This is the best place to try your luck with a traditional terremoto, along with some typical Chilean dishes. Due to its reputation, La Piojera is no longer the cheapest place to eat and drink, but it is the most recommended by locals. Other places worth mentioning are Rincón de los Rotas, and El Hoyo. Salud!

McDonalds celebrates Fiestas Patrias in Chile with terremoto-flavour ice cream

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