Sweet. Refreshing. Natural. Licuados are one of those treats that truly define a Guatemalan experience. The blended fruit drinks can be found most anywhere in La Antigua from fancy restaurants to local, hole-in-the-wall comedors… and I absolutely LOVE them. They are nothing more than fruit blended with your choice of water, milk, yogurt and, sometimes, orange juice. Often, sugar is added but I always ask for mine to come “sin azucar.” Usually fruit here in Guate is so perfectly ripe (as you can see from the pics) that any added sweetner would be too much… at least for me. So what is it, exactly, that makes licuados so addictive?
The idea of what are essentially smoothies is certainly nothing new to me, a U.S.-native. But, where I’m from in the Midwest, they just aren’t so prevalent. Here, in Guate, there is truly a licuado culture, a licuado craze even. It’s just as common to suggest to a friend to “let’s go grab a licuado” as it is to suggest meeting for a coffee. And this licuado culture has taught me to be more creative with my own smoothie concoctions. Never had I heard using papaya, honeydew or watermelon in a blended drink before coming to Central America… and now those are my top three favorites. Just the other day, the woman whom I rented a room from threw starfruit mixed with orange in her own, homemade version. It tasted quite “rico” as well.
It’s safe to say I’m addicted to these treats. I used to go hunker down to work online at Rainbow Café just so I could sip on a papaya-yogurt licuado while tackling my “to-do list.” It didn’t take me long to find the cheapest licuados in town though. At the market, you can usually order a licuado with water for Q7. At El Merendor it will cost you Q8. Looking for a spot more “oriente” go to Cookies where a licuado with water also costs Q7. Just add a quetzal or two for anything blended with milk or yogurt. Anywhere else, licuados usually cost around Q15 to Q20.
text and photos by Laura McNamara