Unless you have visited the Central American country, you may not have encountered this sweet treasure that Guatemalans take so much pride in. Even without tasting it, the intense, deep color of Quezalteca Rosa de Jamaica will seduce you straight away. The sweet Guatemalan favorite is a fruity, hibiscus-flavoured aguardiente that comes in a signature bottle depicting an indigenous woman in traditional costume.
The label is also the reason why Guatemalans most commonly refer to the alcoholic beverage as “Indita”. However, it should be apparent that this expression, a diminutive for “india”, is quite frankly an insult when talking about the indigenous people of the country. While the controversy around its use is growing and activists increasingly try to have it forbidden, the habit still remains strong with a vast part of the population.
Although, we are usually big supporters of maintaining local customs and traditions, it stops with the discrimination of minorities. Therefore, we highly suggest to always use its original name and avoid the local nickname!
Drinking Quezalteca Like A Guatemalan
The name “Rosa de Jamaica” stems from the special type of Hibiscus of the same name that the drink is made of. It all starts with the extraction of the flavour from the dark red calyces which cover the seeds of this bushy, annual plant. The final result after distillation is an Aguardiente Añejo with an alcoholic content of 36%, an almost blood-like color and its special “Sabor Chapín”, the Guatemalan flavor. A fun fact on the side: Aguardiente is a composition of two Romance words that literally translate to “fiery water”. A pretty good description if you ask us.
Nevertheless, Guatemalans often consume the distilled liquor straight as a type of shot. And they usually don’t stop after the one. Our first night out in Guatemala City started and ended with the deep red potion. With countless bottles in-between and a hangover of a lifetime on the following day. Quite understandably, some people perceive the pure drink as too strong or the taste as too sweet. Therefore, mixing it with Sprite, a shot of lemon juice and ice cubes is quite a common thing to do, even among locals. Like this, you get a less sweet, fresh and delicious long drink. A definitely more bearable version, especially if you don’t want to get drunk too quickly in the Guatemalan heat.
From The Working Class Straight Into Hip Bars
Quezalteca Rosa de Jamaica hasn’t always been what it is today. Well, first of all, Quezalteca didn’t start as the red, hibiscus-flavored version. The original is a clear, grape-like aguardiente with rather neutral taste called “Especial”. Back in the days, the raw cane liqueur was seen as a drink for the lower class. Only with the release of “Rosa de Jamaica” in 2011, Quezalteca found its way into the middle and upper classes. Sales have been booming ever since and the flavorful spirit as an true staple at every trendy bar in Guatemala City. The drink has become so widely spread across all areas of society that many Guatemalans nowadays see it as a symbol of national pride.
Quezalteca Rosa de Jamaica is a branded liquor produced by the largest Guatemalan distilling company called Industrias Licoreras de Guatemala. And with the success of Rosa de Jamaica, the distiller has been introducing more and more flavors to please the crowds.
Here is an overview of all available Quezalteca types
- Quezalteca Especial (original)
- Quezalteca Suave (soft)
- Quezalteca Rosa de Jamaica (hibiscus)
- Quezalteca Limonada
- Quezalteca Naranja Pepita (orange)
- Quezalteca Mora
- Quezalteca Tamarindo
- Quezalteca Horchata
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Check out other typical drinks from Guatemala
Photos by Mario A. Torres