A Little Hot One

Lima in the winter is like my native San Francisco in the summer. Fog swirls. The wind blows. And although the temperature doesn’t drop to dramatic levels, the humidity brings a chill to the bones. In this climate one can turn in the early morning or the evening to thoughts of a roaring fire and something to warm the insides.

Great when it is cold

On one of those cold nights winter nights when I was returning from my classes at the University, my taxi driver once said to me: “This is a good night for a calientito”. Under the circumstances, this grabbed my attention and, being innocent of these things, I had to ask what he was talking about.

It seems that calientito translates as a little hot one. After a little research,I learned that this is a popular concoction from the mountain regions of Peru where the cold can be a serious matter. The extreme altitude experienced by people living in the Andes brings with it a terrible and ever -present chill. Having lived for two years at 14,000 feet, I know how they suffer.

What is in it?

My taxi driver wasn’t too clear about what went into the little hot one,so I looked in one of my wife’s Peruvian cookbooks. The drink is a combination of various fruits including figs and prunes along with potatoes, clove, cinnamon and sugar. Most importantly, perhaps, the recipe calls for three bottles of pisco or a brandy made of sugar cane, giving a strong dose of alcohol to the drink. I haven’t tried one yet, but I understand from others that this is a very effective and pleasant way to combat the cold.

I’m also told that this is a working man’s drink. So, if you want a good calientito, it might be best to look in one of the working class neighborhoods in Lima

Popular on the Streets of Lima

I do know that other hot drinks are popular fare on the streets of Lima. They are available in the morning and in the evening. I often see people in the morning clustered around little stands where they can get these hot drinks and a sandwich. A colleague once said to me that     “ a breakfast of one of those chopped chicken sandwiches and a hot drink of quinoa and lime juice keeps me going until lunch-time.” Many people must agree with that sentiment.

Since there is a  hot drinks stand on the route home from the university, I once decided to stop and have a chat with some of the evening partakers of these steaming drinks.

Many enjoy this drink

There I found people: young and old, male and female. Definitely a broad range of people were enjoying their libation. According to those clustered around the stand, not only are these drinks warming and tasty, they provide health. One of them told me” These drinks are good for the kidneys and the liver, I always feel better after having one.” They told me that the drinks are non-alcoholic and are flavored with honey and fruit juice.

 So, the next time you feel a chill, fight it with fire, and get yourself a calientito.

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