The local drink is known as Cana Manabita. This is the local sugar cane spirit, drunk in shots as trago or mixed with Coke and lime for an Ecuadorian twist on the Cuba Libre.
It sells in every corner shop for less than four dollars for half a litre.
There's no pretensions with Cana Manabita. No fancy brand names, no “secret ingredients”, no oak ageing, no baffling but oh-so-arty marketing campaigns featuring a film star just slightly past their sell-by-date. Simply, it's a bottle that costs the price of a Sunday newspaper and will get you pleasantly sloshed without going blind. In fact, that should be its marketing slogan.
|Cana Manabita, it does exactly what it says on the tin... well that's if it says rat arsed in Spanish|
Cana Manabita arrived in my life just in time. The Bombay Sapphire was running low and rum and I were going through a rocky patch. In short, I'd bought one of the comedy water melons from market and thought it would be a laugh to attach a siphon and pump it full of Ron San Miguel. The greedy melon sucked up a litre before I called time. I served the death melon as dessert after the tuna banquet and Lucy and I got quite merry. Tuna, rum, and melon do not a happy hangover make.
The Quechua word for a hangover is chuchaqui (chew-cha-kee) but its used widely across South America. Yo estoy chuchaqui is a useful phrase to employ when you just need some peace and quiet the morning after.
Anyway, a few days later we got our taxi driver onto the subject of Cana Manabita on the long and bumpy track to Los Frailes beach, his eyes lit with savage passion as he gleefully extolled the virtues of his local grog.
“It's very cheap,” he said. “For a few dollars you can have a very happy night. Open a second bottle and you can even have a dance.”
It's rarely cold at night on the coast, but up in the Andes you need something warm at night. That's where the Canelazo comes in. This is a hot, sugary drink with cinnamon and naranjilla fruit. It's a sort of South American take on Gluhwein – or more closely, the hot cider they drink in the USA.
Here is Lucy's recipe for the perfect canelazo.
- Boil two large sticks of cinnamon in one litre of water for 10 minutes until the water starts to take on the colour
- Peel four naranjilla fruits (just ask for them in your local Asda) and blend with a splash of the cinnamon water to the consistency of a road kill toad. Sieve the thick sauce to remove the seeds
- Add the naranjilla fruit (just ask for them in your local Aldi) to the boiling cinnamon water and stir through.
- Add half a cup of sugar to the canelazo – or to taste
- Add one shot of cana Manabita per person
We served this recipe twice. First by a beach bonfire with our taciturn servant Jose – who gave it the thumbs up as he stared gloomily into the flames. Then again the following night at a party in a hippy house in Ayampe - everybody at the multinational gathering enjoyed it, including Colombians, Argentinians, Peruvians, a pair of Yanks and a sleepy French woman who was trying to kip on a hammock but the street dogs kept licking her face.
I gave the hippies delicious canelazo, they gave me guacamole and amoebic dysentery.