One of the most common questions people ask me in Chile when I say I have been here for 18 months is “were you here for the earthquake in February?”. They are asking about the 8.8 earthquake which struck on 27 February 2010. I only arrived three weeks after the event, and so I have yet to experience an earthquake here…well, that is not exactly true…I have experienced a terremoto…just not one where the ground shakes due to geological forces, but rather due to the powerful alcohol which makes up a famous local cocktail that goes by the name “Terremoto“.
This famous drink is most abundantly drunk at this time of the year, during the deiciocho celebrations. At this moment it surpasses the usual tendency of Chileans to drink piscola or pisco sours. Apparently the drink originated in 1985 at a well-known bar called “El Hoyo” which means “the hole or pit”. The story goes that there were some German reporters who came to Santiago that year to report on the damages caused by the major earthquake that had struck that year. Due to the heat, the reporters asked for something refreshing to drink, so the waiter (Guillermo Valenzuela) added some ice-cream to a glass of pipeño (sweet, fermented wine). When the reporters tried the concoction, they supposedly said “this truly is an earthquake” and thus the drink and name terremoto was born.
How Guillermo had the idea to mix pineapple ice-cream with sweet wine in a large glass and serve it as a drink is beyond me. But in actual fact, it is rather tasty. A bit too tasty! It definitely leaves the ground a little shaky, especially if you have a “replica”. A replica is the name used to describe the earthquakes that usually happen after a major earthquake. For example, Chile and Japan both had replicas after their huge earthquakes recently…the replicas can be nearly as strong as the original earthquake. Thus, in cocktail terms, the replica is the second round of this drink, which packs just as big a punch as the first.
So as part of my “research” on the Deiciocho celebrations in Santiago, I obviously have to try a terremoto and what better place to do so than in La Piojera. This is one of the most famous picadas en Santiago. According to Rodrigo, a picada is a place (it could be a shop, restaurant etc) which has something special about it, but yet it is not really famous or fancy in any way. This bar/restaurant whose name translates as “a place full of lice” is definitely nothing fancy, but it is certainly 100% Chilean as the slogan says on their website.
La Piojera opened in 1916 and has been in the same family for three generations. The name La Piojera originated in 1922 when the President of Chile at the time was taken there by some people. When he entered and saw the place full of labourers he exclaimed “and this…you have bought me to a piojera!!!” (a place full of lice, meaning somewhere dirty and common) The name stuck!
According to their website, La Piojera is often frequented by famous people and politicians, but to the owners and people who work there, these people are no more important customers then the local workers who still frequent the bar regularly. There are no menus as the people know that the food is 100% pure Chilean, the drinks are traditional too and everything is cheap. On a weekend like this one, the place was packed with people, so I will have to return when it is quiter to try their food.
Rodrigo and I trying out the infamous Terremoto. Definitely not a drink I will be having frequently as it packs a strong punch. But glad to have tried it out in a place like La Piojera during the Deiciocho celebrations.