Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Aguardiente: The Hooch of Colombia
Whenever a friend travels to a far-flung country, I say "Find out what they drink there, and bring me back a bottle!" I usually add, "Something I can't buy here!"
I asked this recently of a friend who frequently has business in South America. She went to Colombia and brought back a pint of Aguardiente Antioqueno.
Now, my experience of the preferred alcohols of South American and Asian countries is that they are, basically, fire water. This is no exception. "Aguardiente" means, literally, "burning water." The term is a Spanish-language equivalent of eau-de-vie or aquavit or what have you. It's a clear distillate. In Colombia, it's distilled in pot stills from sugar cane, which would seem to make it a kind of rum, and a cousin of Brazil's Cachaca (which, I know, I know, Leblon, is not actually rum). Except that Colombian Aguardiente is—like so many liquors around the world—anise flavored. I am told that Aguardiente is the most popular liquor in Colombia, particularly the Andean region, and is usually drunk straight.
The kind my friend bought me is the most popular brand in Colombia. "The good stuff," she told me. My bottle is additionally "Sin Azucar," without sugar, which is the way real drinkers drink it. It's 29% alcohol. The top comes with a built-in plastic stopper, so I guess they don't want you to drink it too fast. Smell? It smells like licorice, of course. The taste, however, is nothing like Sambuca, Anisette or whatever sticky, anise-flavored booze you care to mention. Why? Because it's Sin Azucar. It's a very dry and clean dram, not cloying in the least.
That said, I don't know how much of it I could drink, even if trapped on some Andes mountaintop.