Lemongrass?? Bubblegum??? Not typically served AND hard to find in the States?
Being the hipster that I am, it was the latter statement that made sure I would drink a lot of Inca Kola while in Peru a few years ago (Yes by the way, I HAVE learned living in the Mission in San Francisco means that Inca Kola is quite plentiful).
There’s something particularly playful in the fluorescent neon gold color. It calls upon memories of day-glo wear of traffic attendants in school, the big fat highlighters of my youth, and the taste of sour Jelly Belly beans. Like sodas of the old, it is served in glass bottles throughout Peru. When we drank, the restaurant proprietors rushed over to confirm the collection of the bottles. And of course, the novelty of Inca Kola on our flights from Lima to Cusco… was so appealing.
On the way back from visiting the cloud forests of the Amazon, our driver stopped in a small village. In broken Spanish, he gestured toward a chifa where my sister and I ordered fried rice (Peruvian style) and of course, a bottle of Inca Kola in a glass bottle.
So throughout the trip in Peru, “Inca Kola, por favor!” we chorused in unison (when my other favorite drink chicha morada wasn’t available).
Of course, nobody in the world would think of making Inca Kola as a frozen confection (although there’s a flavored popsicle floating somewhere in Peru), so I improvised using the essence of Inca Kola while highlighting the herb-like flavors with lemongrass.
1 liter of Inca Kola (use half of a 2 liter bottle)
1 cup of sugar
Bunch of fresh or dried lemongrass (fresh is most likely better, but I had only dried on hand)
1 cinnamon stick
In a medium pot, heat up the Inca Kola to a simmer. The goal is to boil down the Inca Kola to a concentrated Inca Kola liquid. Simmer for about 30 minutes with the pot uncovered. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Add lemongrass and cinnamon stick. Remove from heat and let sit for 30 minutes to let the lemongrass steep the mixture. Strain out the lemongrass and cinnamon stick from the mixture.
Chill completely overnight in the refrigerator. Churn in an ice cream maker based on the manufacturer’s instructions.