Tomando: Refresco de Cebada


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!

I moved out of my host family’s house about three weeks ago. And the move, although, I

The toasted barley

had been anticipating it, happened a little earlier than I had planned  (Its a long, dramatic story). And I found myself in a not quite ready apartment with no cook station but still with my basic human need for eating food. So for a couple of weeks, I was eating fruits for breakfast and eating unsatisfying salads for dinner. But for lunch, I made sure I got a full meal in a menú restaurant which sells a set menu of cheap food (about 4 soleswhich was the same amount I had been paying my ex-host mom for lunches.

And just about every time I went for my menú, I would be served this kind of bitter, kind of sweet dark beverage that reminded me a lot of emolienteI had seen it before being sold on street corners during lunch time but when I was living with the host family nobody had ever made it or bought it. But, oh guys,  just like with all the other Peruvian drinks I’ve grown to appreciate, it was love at first taste. And after a few days, I finally asked someone what the drink was and found out it was refesco de cebada. So I said the word cebada five times in my head (because that’s my very scientific way of making sure I remember new Spanish words) and when I got home I made sure I consulted Google translate. I learned that cebada is the Spanish word for barley and the reason why it reminded me so much of emoliente is because barley is a main ingredient in the quintessentially Peruvian drink.

So what’s a girl to do when she finds out that there is a new Peruvian drink she loves? …

I learn how to make it and I share it on the blog of course! Let me walk you through the very easy, very uncomplicated recipe for refresco de cebada

The dark deliciousness of refresco de cebada



  • 2 liters of water
  • 1 cup of toasted barley
  • Sugar (to your liking)
  • 3 limes (the limes in Peru are tiny so might need to modify this for those huge American limes)
  • Pineapple pieces (Optional)


  • Pour the the 2 liters of water and the 1 cup of toasted barley in a pot
  • Bring the water and barley mix to a boil and then let simmer with top on for 30 minutes
  • Remove the barley water from the fire and mix in the sugar (as much or as little as you want) while the water is still hot
  • Squeeze the lemon juice into mix and wait for it to cool (or if you’re fancy and you have a refrigerator put it in the fridge and let it cool there)

** If the drink comes out looking dark and a little unappetizing, don’t worry,  its supposed to look like that**

And its that simple, folks! Now you have a the bitter sweetness of refresco de cebada in the comfort of your own home. And as always, if you try out the recipe, let a sister know!

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


13 Comments Add yours

  1. lacalaw2 says:

    While typing this message to you on my Macbook I paused to glance at the Cusco enscribed leather wallet, which I bought from a woman in Canete. Your post just sent me down memory lane where I reminisced about the time I drank Emoliente for the first time with my colleagues at a bar on a side street near Miraflores. Disfrute de sus experiencias en Perú y continuar para escribir sobre ellos .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. bdwhite says:

      Gracias! And I hope that your new adventure is well worth it!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. hmmmmmm interestante. i shall have to try it

    Liked by 1 person

    1. bdwhite says:

      Let me know if you do!


  3. Youll have to make me some when you come home. In the mean time I’ll stick with Tahitian Treat!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. bdwhite says:

      They’re selling Tahitian treat again?!


      1. Not in DC but aren’t you gonna go to philly??? You can bring back a small bottle or two for me! 😊

        Liked by 1 person

  4. colleenewood says:

    We’ve also got cereal-based beverages, except they’re usually slightly fermented and definitely don’t have fruit in them. It’s like drinking cold, bubbly bread… Wondering how it compares to emoliente and refresco de cebada!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. bdwhite says:

      Hmmm interesting! I gotta find a Kyrgyz restaurant when I get back to the States! Most of the fermented drinks here are almost always corn or sugar cane based lol


  5. Ex-host mom lol. I hope you find comfort in your new space! Love reading your blog. Krystal, PCV Namibia

    Liked by 1 person

    1. bdwhite says:

      The comfort I feel is unreal! I love my solitude! THanks for reading!


  6. Michele says:

    It is one of my favorite drinks, too. My host family makes it using the pineapple cascara. The cooking teacher at the colegio uses the cascara and cinnamon. At one of the menu places they put a little vanilla in. All variations are delicious.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. bdwhite says:

      Wooo! Nice to hear from another cebada fan!


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