Header Notice

Winter is here! Check out the winter wonderlands at these 5 amazing winter destinations in Montana

Literally Drinking Under The Table In Guatemala


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Ardith Cabrera



Welcome to the enchanting world of Guatemala, where the drinking culture is as diverse and fascinating as the country itself. Guatemala is not only known for its breathtaking landscapes and rich history but also for its unique and remarkable tradition of imbibing spirits. From ancient Mayan rituals to modern-day celebrations, the act of raising a glass holds special significance in Guatemalan society.


Growing up in Guatemala, one cannot escape the allure of beverages that have been passed down through generations. The country’s drinking culture is deeply intertwined with its history, traditions, and customs, making it an integral part of daily life. Whether it’s enjoying a cup of freshly brewed coffee in the morning or sipping on a glass of Ron Zacapa, Guatemala offers a myriad of libations to please every palate.


In this article, we will delve into the fascinating world of the Guatemalan drinking culture. We will explore the history, traditional beverages, cultural significance, customs, challenges, and efforts to promote responsible drinking. So grab your favorite drink, sit back, and join us on a journey to uncover the weird and amazing aspects of drinking in Guatemala.


History of Drinking Culture in Guatemala

The drinking culture in Guatemala dates back thousands of years and is deeply rooted in the country’s rich history and diverse cultural heritage. From the ancient Mayans to the Spanish conquistadors, the influence of various civilizations has shaped the drinking traditions that exist in Guatemala today.


One of the key contributors to Guatemala’s drinking culture is the ancient Mayan civilization. The Mayans had a deep reverence for alcohol and considered it an integral part of their religious ceremonies and social gatherings. They were skilled in the art of brewing and produced a wide range of beverages using ingredients like maize, honey, and fruits. Balché, a fermented honey and bark beverage, and chicha, a corn-based alcoholic drink, were popular choices among the Mayans.


Following the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century, Guatemala experienced a significant shift in its drinking culture. The Spanish introduced distillation techniques and brought with them European spirits, such as rum and brandy. These spirits quickly gained popularity among both the indigenous population and the European settlers.


During the colonial period, drinking became deeply ingrained in Guatemalan society. The Spanish introduced the concept of cantinas, or drinking establishments, where people would gather to socialize and enjoy alcoholic beverages. These cantinas served as community hubs, contributing to the development of a vibrant drinking culture in Guatemala.


Over the years, Guatemala’s drinking culture continued to evolve, influenced by various global trends and local traditions. Today, traditional Guatemalan beverages, such as atol and horchata, coexist with international favorites like beer, wine, and cocktails.


Despite the changes brought about by globalization, the history of Guatemala’s drinking culture remains deeply intertwined with its cultural identity. It continues to be celebrated and cherished as an essential part of Guatemalan life, providing a window into the country’s past and present.


Traditional Guatemalan Alcoholic Beverages

Guatemala is home to a wide array of traditional alcoholic beverages, each with its own unique flavors and cultural significance. These traditional drinks are deeply rooted in the country’s history and traditions, offering a taste of the local heritage with every sip.


One of the most iconic traditional alcoholic beverages in Guatemala is called Ron Zacapa. This premium rum is known for its exquisite taste, aged to perfection in the highlands of Guatemala. Made from the juice of hand-selected sugarcane, Ron Zacapa is aged in a unique solera system that imparts rich and complex flavors. It has gained international recognition and is often regarded as one of the finest rums in the world.


Another traditional drink that holds a special place in Guatemalan culture is called Chicha. Originally made by the ancient Mayans, Chicha is a corn-based fermented beverage. It has a slightly tangy flavor, making it both refreshing and unique. Chicha is often prepared during special occasions and festivals, where it is shared among family and friends to celebrate and honor the Mayan heritage.


Guatemala is also known for its vibrant local beer scene. Gallo, the most popular beer in the country, has become a beloved symbol of Guatemalan pride. With its crisp and light taste, Gallo beer is a favorite choice for casual gatherings and social events. Other local beers, such as Moza and Cabro, also offer a diverse range of flavors, catering to different preferences.


For those looking for something non-alcoholic but still traditional, Guatemala offers beverages like atol and horchata. Atol, a warm and comforting beverage, is made from cornmeal, milk, and spices. It is often enjoyed during breakfast or as a midday snack. Horchata, on the other hand, is a refreshing rice-based drink with hints of cinnamon and vanilla. It is a popular choice for cooling down on hot Guatemalan afternoons.


These traditional Guatemalan alcoholic beverages not only tantalize the taste buds but also provide a glimpse into the country’s rich cultural heritage. They are an integral part of Guatemalan celebrations and gatherings, fostering a sense of community and connection among its people.


Cultural Significance of Drinking in Guatemala

In Guatemala, drinking goes beyond mere consumption of alcoholic beverages; it holds deep cultural significance and plays a significant role in various aspects of daily life. From religious ceremonies to social gatherings, the act of drinking in Guatemala is laden with meaning and symbolism.


One of the key cultural aspects of drinking in Guatemala is the sense of community and togetherness it fosters. Sharing a drink with family and friends is a common practice, often seen as a way to strengthen bonds and celebrate special moments. Whether it’s a casual gathering or a formal occasion, the act of drinking becomes a collective experience, promoting a sense of unity and camaraderie.


Drinking also plays a prominent role in religious traditions and rituals in Guatemala. The ancient Mayans, for instance, believed that certain alcoholic beverages had the power to connect them with the spiritual realm. They would offer these beverages as part of their ceremonies, seeking blessings and guidance from their deities. These traditions have endured to this day, with some communities continuing to incorporate alcoholic libations into their religious practices.


Moreover, drinking in Guatemala is often associated with celebrations and festivities. Whether it’s a wedding, a birthday, or a national holiday, alcoholic beverages are an essential part of the festivities. Traditional drinks, such as Chicha and Ron Zacapa, are often shared among guests, symbolizing joy, abundance, and good fortune. These occasions serve not only as a means of celebration but also as opportunities to express cultural pride and heritage.


At the same time, drinking in Guatemala is also regarded as a form of relaxation and leisure. After a long day of work or during social gatherings, enjoying a drink is a way to unwind and temporarily escape the stresses of life. It serves as a time to relax, socialize, and engage in conversation with others.


Aside from the cultural aspects, drinking in Guatemala also serves as a way to showcase the country’s culinary heritage. Traditional beverages, such as atol and horchata, are seen as an integral part of the Guatemalan gastronomic experience. These drinks often accompany traditional dishes, adding depth and flavor to the overall culinary tapestry.


Overall, drinking in Guatemala is a multifaceted cultural phenomenon that goes beyond the act of consuming beverages. It brings people together, connects them with their traditions and customs, and serves as a means of celebration, relaxation, and culinary expression. Embracing the drinking culture in Guatemala offers a glimpse into the heart and soul of this captivating country.


Drinking Customs and Etiquette

Drinking customs and etiquette in Guatemala are deeply rooted in the country’s cultural heritage and social norms. Understanding these customs can help visitors navigate the drinking scene and ensure respectful interactions with locals. Here are some key customs and etiquette to keep in mind:

  1. Toasting: When raising a glass for a toast, it is customary to make eye contact with each person present and say “¡Salud!” (which means “cheers” in Spanish) before taking a sip. It is considered impolite to take a sip without acknowledging the toast.
  2. Sharing: In social gatherings, it is common to share drinks, especially when it comes to traditional beverages like Chicha. It is customary to pass the drink to the person next to you, and they will in turn pass it to the person beside them, creating a sense of unity and camaraderie.
  3. Respecting personal space: Guatemalans value personal space and respecting boundaries. When offering a drink to someone, it is essential to do so without invading their personal space. Politely extend the drink and allow the person to accept it at their comfort level.
  4. Ron Zacapa rituals: Ron Zacapa, the famous Guatemalan rum, often holds special rituals and traditions. For example, some people prefer to enjoy it neat or on the rocks, savoring its flavors slowly. Others may choose to toast to the rum’s origin and heritage, showing respect for the craftsmanship behind it.
  5. Drinking responsibly: While alcoholic beverages are enjoyed in Guatemala, it is vital to practice responsible drinking. Excessive consumption is frowned upon, as it goes against the cultural value of moderation. It is also important to be aware of one’s limits and never drink and drive.
  6. Offering a drink: If you are a guest in someone’s home or attending a social gathering, it is customary to offer a drink to the host or those around you as a sign of gratitude. This gesture is seen as a form of respect and appreciation for their hospitality.

By following these customs and etiquettes, you can engage in the drinking culture of Guatemala while showing respect for local customs and traditions. Remember to embrace the sense of community that drinking fosters and enjoy the rich flavors and experiences that Guatemalan libations have to offer.


Challenges and Issues Related to Drinking in Guatemala

While drinking holds cultural significance in Guatemala, it also brings forth a set of challenges and issues that need to be addressed. Understanding these challenges is crucial for promoting responsible drinking and ensuring the well-being of individuals and communities. Here are some of the main challenges and issues related to drinking in Guatemala:

  1. Excessive alcohol consumption: Excessive drinking is a concern in Guatemala, as it can lead to health issues and negative social consequences. It is important to raise awareness about the risks associated with heavy alcohol consumption and promote responsible drinking habits.
  2. Social and economic inequalities: The prevalence of drinking-related problems is often higher in marginalized communities with limited access to education and healthcare. Addressing social and economic inequalities is crucial in tackling the underlying issues related to alcohol abuse.
  3. Underage drinking: The consumption of alcohol among underage individuals is a widespread concern in Guatemala. Efforts are needed to enforce age-restricted policies and educate young people about the risks associated with early alcohol use.
  4. Drunk driving: Like many countries, Guatemala faces challenges with drunk driving. Strict enforcement of laws and public education campaigns are essential in reducing the number of accidents and fatalities related to alcohol-impaired driving.
  5. Alcohol-related health issues: Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to a range of health problems, including liver disease, cardiovascular conditions, and mental health issues. Access to quality healthcare and alcohol abuse treatment programs are vital in addressing these health concerns.
  6. Alcohol marketing and advertising: The marketing and advertising of alcoholic beverages can have a significant influence on drinking behavior. It is important to regulate alcohol advertising to ensure it does not target vulnerable populations or promote excessive consumption.

Efforts are being made in Guatemala to address these challenges and issues. Government agencies, non-profit organizations, and community initiatives are working together to promote responsible drinking, provide education on the risks of excessive alcohol consumption, and offer support for those struggling with alcohol-related problems.


It is also important for individuals to support and participate in these efforts by making informed choices about their own drinking habits, promoting moderation and responsible behavior, and being aware of the potential risks associated with excessive alcohol consumption.


By addressing the challenges and issues related to drinking in Guatemala, the country can continue to celebrate and embrace its drinking culture while ensuring the well-being and safety of its residents.


Impact of Alcohol on Guatemalan Society

Alcohol has a significant impact on Guatemalan society, affecting various aspects of daily life and having both positive and negative consequences. Understanding these impacts is crucial for addressing the challenges associated with alcohol consumption and promoting a healthier and more balanced drinking culture.


On one hand, alcohol plays a positive role in social interactions and celebrations in Guatemala. It brings people together, strengthens social bonds, and fosters a sense of community. From family gatherings to festive events, alcohol often serves as a facilitator of socialization and enjoyment. It can enhance cultural celebrations, creating an atmosphere of joy and festivity.


However, there are also negative impacts associated with excessive alcohol consumption. One of the key areas affected is public health. Heavy drinking can contribute to numerous health problems such as liver disease, cardiovascular issues, mental health disorders, and increased risk of accidents and injuries.


In addition to physical health concerns, alcohol abuse can have detrimental effects on individuals, families, and communities. Excessive drinking can lead to strained relationships, economic hardships, and decreased productivity. It can contribute to domestic violence, child neglect, and other social problems, putting a strain on the overall well-being and stability of families and communities.


The impact of alcohol extends beyond personal and social spheres to the economic aspect of Guatemalan society. Alcohol-related problems can place a burden on healthcare systems, result in lost productivity, and increase public spending on law enforcement and rehabilitation programs. This can hinder economic development and social progress, diverting resources that could be better utilized for other societal needs.


It is important to note that these negative impacts are not exclusive to Guatemala but are prevalent in many societies where alcohol consumption is prevalent. However, the specific cultural context and socioeconomic factors in Guatemala can exacerbate or influence the nature and extent of these impacts.


To address the impact of alcohol on Guatemalan society, it is crucial to promote responsible drinking, raise awareness about the potential risks of excessive alcohol consumption, and provide support for individuals and families affected by alcohol-related problems. Education, enforcement of alcohol policies, and access to quality healthcare and rehabilitation services are key components in mitigating the negative consequences of alcohol on the well-being of Guatemalan society.


Efforts to Promote Responsible Drinking in Guatemala

In recognition of the challenges associated with alcohol consumption, various organizations and initiatives in Guatemala have been working diligently to promote responsible drinking and address the negative impacts of excessive alcohol consumption. These efforts aim to foster a healthier and more balanced drinking culture within the country.


One key aspect of promoting responsible drinking is raising awareness about the risks and consequences of alcohol abuse. Government agencies, non-profit organizations, and healthcare professionals conduct public awareness campaigns to educate the public about the potential health, social, and economic impacts of excessive alcohol consumption. These campaigns often include messages on moderation, highlighting the importance of consuming alcohol in a responsible manner.


Regulatory measures have also been implemented to promote responsible drinking. Guatemala has laws and regulations in place regarding the minimum legal drinking age, hours of sale, and driving under the influence. Enforcement of these laws is crucial in preventing underage drinking and reducing the incidents of alcohol-impaired driving. Additionally, restrictions on alcohol advertising and marketing have been introduced to minimize the exposure of vulnerable populations to promotional messages that may encourage excessive consumption.


Educational programs targeting schools and educational institutions play a vital role in shaping attitudes and behaviors towards alcohol. These programs provide information on the risks associated with underage drinking, peer pressure, and strategies for making responsible choices. By equipping young people with the knowledge and skills to make informed decisions, these programs aim to reduce the prevalence of underage drinking and promote responsible behavior among future generations.


Collaboration between the government, communities, and the private sector is another cornerstone of efforts to promote responsible drinking. Partnerships and initiatives that involve various stakeholders, including alcohol producers and distributors, healthcare providers, and community organizations, are essential in implementing effective strategies and interventions. These partnerships often focus on providing support for individuals struggling with alcohol abuse, promoting treatment resources, and fostering a supportive environment for recovery and rehabilitation.


Furthermore, community-based initiatives, such as alcohol awareness and support groups, play a crucial role in promoting responsible drinking practices. These groups provide a safe and non-judgmental space for individuals and families affected by alcohol-related issues to share their experiences, seek guidance, and receive emotional support. By fostering a sense of community and understanding, these initiatives contribute to overall well-being and empowerment.


Efforts to promote responsible drinking in Guatemala are ongoing and multifaceted. By combining education, regulation, support resources, and community engagement, these initiatives strive to create a cultural shift towards moderation and responsible behavior surrounding alcohol consumption. With continued commitment and collaboration, Guatemala is working towards a healthier and more balanced approach to drinking.



The drinking culture in Guatemala is a fascinating blend of tradition, history, and community. It is deeply ingrained in the social fabric of the country, with cultural significance that extends beyond the act of consuming alcoholic beverages. From ancient Mayan rituals to modern-day celebrations, the act of drinking holds a special place in Guatemalan society.


Throughout history, Guatemala has witnessed the evolution of its drinking culture, influenced by indigenous traditions, Spanish colonization, and globalization. Traditional beverages like Chicha and Ron Zacapa, as well as local beers and non-alcoholic options like atol and horchata, contribute to the diverse tapestry of Guatemalan libations.


While celebrating the richness of this drinking culture, it is important to recognize and address the challenges associated with alcohol consumption. Excessive drinking, underage drinking, drunk driving, and health issues are among the concerns that need attention and proactive measures.


Efforts to promote responsible drinking in Guatemala are underway, encompassing education, awareness campaigns, regulatory measures, supportive resources, and community initiatives. These efforts aim to foster a healthier and more balanced approach to alcohol consumption, ensuring the well-being of individuals, families, and communities.


By honoring the cultural significance of drinking, promoting moderation, and addressing the societal and health impacts of alcohol, Guatemala continues to embrace its drinking culture while striving for a safer and more sustainable environment for all.


So, whether you find yourself enjoying a glass of Ron Zacapa, sipping on Chicha during a celebration, or savoring a cup of atol or horchata, take a moment to appreciate the intricate tapestry of Guatemala’s drinking culture. It is a journey that offers a glimpse into the nation’s history, traditions, and sense of community.


Cheers to the weird and amazing world of drinking in Guatemala!