Why you should care
Because you’ll need your earthquake legs after a few of these.
With people, it’s the quiet ones you have to watch out for. With drinks, it’s the sickly sweet concoctions that will give you the raging hangover. And in Chile, it’s the terremoto cocktail that will leave you unsteady. It may look like liquid cotton candy and have an innocent-appearing scoop of pineapple ice cream bobbing on its surface, but this sugary, bright pink drink served in a 1-liter plastic cup has triple threat written all over it.
There are only three ingredients in the potent terremoto: pipeño, a hastily fermented, very sweet Chilean white wine, and that all-important pineapple ice cream — which, unlike ice cubes, keeps the drink icy cool without watering it down — over which you pour a healthy glug of grenadine (you can swap that out for fernet or even pisco if you don’t have the sweet tooth of a kid in a candy store). All combine to give the terremoto its utter drinkability (and help make it so aesthetically pleasing), but they also possess the potential to have you necking what is essentially a pint of white wine in record time. Which brings us to that peculiar name — terremoto, aka “earthquake.”
I missed an international flight the day after sipping just two.
As local legend has it, some unsuspecting foreign journalists reporting on Chile’s real-life 1985 earthquake asked their bartender for a refreshing drink to take the edge off the heat. The jelly-leg-inducing drink they received in return birthed the terremoto moniker. However, Chilean-American blogger Andrea Mujica claims that the drink simply “started to make news” around this time, adding that the all-too-easily-imbibed beverage is called terremoto because it “has the same effect [as] when you’re trying to walk” during an actual earthquake.
Whatever the truth, three also seems to be the magic number when it comes to the cocktail’s horror stories. Mujica was swept off her feet “three terremotos in” and couldn’t stand up. Chile-based American expat Sena Moran “pretty much had to be carried home” after her third. As for me, I missed an international flight the day after sipping just two. Perhaps that explains why most bars recommend you tap out after one, although if you feel you haven’t quite got your fix you can chance your luck with a réplica, or “aftershock,” the smaller, less potent baby brother to the full-size terremoto.
And yet, horror stories that’ll make for funny anecdotes in the future aside, there’s something so quintessentially Chilean about knocking back (or sipping carefully) a deceptively delicious terremoto or two while in Chile. While most commonly associated with and consumed around the fiestas patrias (literally, fatherland festivities) of Chilean Independence Day, you can get them year-round in Santiago’s most infamous dive bar — it’s “absolute mayhem,” says Moran — and the supposed birthplace of Chile’s most dangerously drinkable drink, La Piojera.
Wherever you decide to try a triple-threat terremoto, remember that although you might not want to stop at one, you probably should.
Chilean Independence Day is Sept. 18, 2018. Salud!