LATIN AMERICA, land of salsa, merengue, rumba, samba, and tango! Think of the countries and their great cities, to name a few: Mexico City (Mexico), Caracus (Venezuela), Sau Paulo (Brazil), Bueno Aires (Argentina), Santiago (Chile). These names drip with history; hot, throbbing municipalities which are culturally rich and heave with humanity whose thirst requires quenching. For this they drink beer. Cold beer. And plenty of it. Mexico`s Corona Extra is the leading brand still, despite the coronavirus hitting sales, apparently. Barley and wheat are big croppers in both Central and South America, as is sugarcane which has given rise to a heady consumption of spirit-based drinks. Venezuela is one of the World`s best rum producers, my absolute favourite Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva [on offer in-store now] a molasses-based rum distilled in copper pot stills and matured in whiskey barrels. A superlative silky blend of gingerbread, banana, and custard flavours make for a delicious drink served simply on ice. Another spirit is aguardiente, which translates to fire water, a shot in the arm to many a long drink, mostly made from sugarcane, but also from fruit. Brazil`s national cocktail is Caipirinha, sugars and limes, or lemons, dissolved in aguardiente on ice, the spirit there known as Cachaça. Pisco is another – Aguardiente de Pisco – a colourless brandy, of the grape, especially big in Chile and Peru. Both sugarcane and the grape were introduced by the colonising Spanish and Portuguese, as were their languages and cultures. The indigenous folk before them, the Maya, and the Inca, for example, would ferment plants, corn, and the sap of trees, to produce watery beer-like beverages. The grape struggled to take hold across the entire continent, not least because of the tropical climate which centred on the equator, in the north, at Ecuador. Hybrids offered some success, but eventually, finally, it was European Vitis Vinifera vines which exceled when grown at altitude. And in the coastal south, in Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil, where the South Pacific and Atlantic oceans extend their cooling influences as well, they flourished.