Tomando: Inca Kola


The word tomando in Spanish literally translates to “taking.” However, here in Peru we use this word for “drinking.”  You “take” juices, coffee, sodas, alcoholic beverages, etc. – and I must say that one of my favorite things about Peru are the drinks.  Since sharing is caring, I wanted to do a series on culturally essential Peruvian drinks. I’ll be sure to link or post recipes when possible so you can enjoy the Peruvian goodies at home in the US. Enjoy!6e908c65ad6681c96d727a210cc55bf3

Nothing invokes Peruvian patriotism and national pride like flags, national anthems, Machu Picchu, and… soda. That’s right, Inca Kola, a carbonated drink the color of highlighter yellow and the flavor of super sweet Bazooka bubblegum is considered one of the symbolic flavors of Peru. And because Inca Kola is one of those things that Peruvians take pride in sharing with extranjeros like myself, I would definitely be remiss if I didn’t let ya’ll know the 411 on Inca Kola.

Now, ironically enough, this prized national soda was created by a British immigrant in 1935 and initially put on the market to commemorate Lima’s 400th anniversary. Its flavor remotely mimics its base ingredient Lemon Verbena which is known as hierba luisa here in Peru (Sidenote — Peruvains also make an all too delicious tea out of the hierba luisa plant but more about that another time)

Fast forward about 10 years after its initial release and Inca Kola is one of the heavy hitters in the Peruvian soda game thanks to an aggressive marketing campaign that really touched on growing nationalist sentiments at the time. Through this use of national iconography, the folks down at Inca Kola successfully positioned their soda as a traditional Peruvian drink. Just to get an idea of how they used patriotism to sell their product, check out some of the slogans Inca Kola has had over the years:


1936-1950: Solo hay una y no se 
parece a ninguna
(There is only one, unlike any other)

1960-1980: La bebida del sabor nacional (The drink with national flavor)

1990-1995: Es nuestra. La bebida del Perú (It’s ours! The drink of Peru.)

2000-2001: El sabor de lo nuestro (The flavor that is ours)

2001-2003: Hay una sola y Perú sabe por qué (There is only one, and Peru knows why)

2003-2005: El sabor del Perú (The flavor of Peru)

2005: Destapa el sabor del Perú (Uncap the flavor of Peru)

2005-2006: Celebra el Perú (Celebrate Peru)

As you can see, the folks down at Inca Kola marketing go hard like the folks out here marketing for Beyonce!

Unfortunately, unlike the other drinks I’ve blogged about you can’t exactly make Inca Kola in the comfort of your home. And although there are places you can buy this golden cola in the US, I’ve heard that the flavor is not the same as the Inca Kola that is produced here in Peru so I wouldn’t go out my way to buy it if I were you. Nonetheless, if any of you are really dying to get taste of  el sabor del Perú , let me know and I’ll pack a bottle for you in my suitcase the next time I’m in the States!

If you’re thirsty for more, feel free to check out more delightful Peruvian drinks in the Tomando Series here.


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