August 2016

The beloved railroad drink called Chuflay

The Chuflay is a traditional Bolivian drink, made from the spirit Singani, which is only produced in Bolivia’s mountains. However, its origin is not purely Bolivian.

By: Rina Nidam Møller
Projects Abroad Volunteer
Copenhagen - Denmark


Photo by: Ximena Noya

There is no doubt that the Chuflay is a very beloved and popular drink in Bolivia and this is diffidently no surprise. With its soft and aromatic taste it easily wins you over. It is usually served at special events and celebrations, such as weddings, promotions and sometimes even at birthdays. It is a drink served most frequently and therefore finding a place in town which serves the drink will not be a difficulty. But even though the Chuflay is a very popular drink today, the drink originally only came to be out of a deficiency of others.

According to the historic sources from Singaniusa.com, this is the story of how the drink was created. In the colonial times, more precisely in the beginning of the 19th century, British and American railroad engineers lay down railroad tracks in the Andes Mountains, and here they found themselves extremely isolated. The railroad tracks were laid down far from the cities and it made it difficult for the men to get their usual afterhours drinks, such as “gin on gin” or whiskey. Therefore, they often ran out of alcohol and the railroad engineers would be left with empty glasses. Luckily for them, they instead did have access to a local drink, the Singani, and it became the savior of their afterhours drink tradition. Singani would be used by the British and the Americans, as long as they were “in country” and during this time, the Chuflay was born. The name the drink was given is connected to the story of the railroad life as well. “Shoofly” is an old railroad term for a line of tracks that are used in extraordinary terrain, e.g. the Andes Mountains. By that definition, the term becomes the opposition to a regular line, and it is therefore an exceptional line that takes up, where the regular one cannot go. To name the drink after such a term seems rather fitting, because it did exactly what the term described – took over, where the regular spirits could not go. Then, over the years “Shoofly” became “Chuflay” and now this delicious drink is known all over the country.

For those who are so unlucky to not have tasted this drink yet, here is a simple explanation of how it is made:


Illustration by: Alfredo Roagui

This is the way to mix a Chuflay, described with its possible modern variation. Although there are different ways to mix the drink today, the main ingredient, the Singani, stays the same and just as the Chuflay it has an origin closely connected to Bolivian history.

The aforementnioned source, singaniusa.com, also tells the story of the Singani. As the Chuflay, the Singani was also born out of the need for an alternative to another drink. In this case, wine for Catholic mass. The type of grapes the Singani is made from, the Vistis viniferas, is said to be brought to the country by European monks in the colonial times. These monks had settled down here with the rest of the Europeans, who had come here in pursuit of wealth. As it was too expensive and difficult to import wine from Europe, the monks experimented with the possibility of growing their own grapes and making wine of them, which lead to the production of Singani.

Thanks to the European monks, Bolivians have been able to enjoy their Singani for many years and there is now a growing production of the drink in Bolivia. It is a production process with very specific methods. The production of the drink has to happen at 5,250 feet or higher to ensure the best quality of the grapes. But that is not all. As of January 2016 the drink, alongside the high altitude wines, has been declared a part of the Bolivian national heritage through Law 774, proclaimed by the government of president Evo Morales (Opinion, 2016).

So if you ever decide to order this delicious drink, once again or for the first time, then be aware. You will not only enjoy one of the most popular drinks in Bolivia. You will also be drinking an extremely carefully produced spirit and enjoy a piece of Bolivian history

Calendario AGOSTO 2016

Alianza Francesa

> LUNES DE CINE FRANCÉS

>Lunes 15 de agosto 19:00
Una botella al mar
Año: 2010. Subtítulos en castellano.

>Lunes 22 de agosto 19:00
Chicas vestidas de negro
Año: 2009. Subtítulos en castellano.

>Lunes 29 de agosto 19:00
Golpe de calor
Año: 2014 . Subtítulos en castellano

> EXPOSICIÓN DE ARTE

Jueves 11 de agosto 19:00
Inauguración de la exposición « Diversidad »,
de la artista Marta Eugenia Cortés

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