Aguardiente, the "fire water" of Colombia, is the base spirit of this Aguardiente Cocktail that plays beautifully with a generous amount of mole or chocolate bitters, coconut syrup, grapefruit bitters, and a grapefruit twist. The unusual combination of ingredients works surprisingly well, and if you've got the ingredients, it's ready in under 5 minutes!
👩🏻🍳 Tamara Talks - Recipe Inspiration
In recent years, Beyond Mere Sustenance has focused on Latin American cooking. Being a bourbon and gin girl, cocktail creation is a bit more of a challenge! I have covered tequila in tropical margaritas, pisco in chilcanos, and mezcal in a blood orange negroni.
Tequila, mezcal, and pisco are indeed "heavy hitters" with respect to Latin-style cocktails. However, I don't want to discount the minor players - cachaça and aguardiente.
Today we're going to focus on aguardiente. I will attempt to answer "what it is," and "what it isn't." Perhaps you'll decide it's worth giving aguardiente a try!
NOTE: I was not compensated in any way for this post. The views are my own!
🍸 What is Aguardiente?
Literally translated from Spanish to English, "aguardiente" means "fire water." This term applies to many different spirits across Central and South America. Aguardiente is made with sugar cane in Brazil (cachaça), Ecquador (aguardiente), Mexico (aguardiente, habanero), and Colombia (aguardiente), but in other countries, it may be made with grapes or grains.
"Aguardiente" seems to be a generic term for strong alcoholic beverages made from a variety of fruits, vegetables, musts, and macerations. They may be somewhat neutral in flavor, unaged or aged in casks, refined an suitable to drink "neat."
While in Peru, we bought anisada aguardiente from a roadside stand high in the Andes that was clearly made at home, and we loved it. It was probably not more refined than moonshine. We had a lovely anisada in a fine restaurant in Cuzco. I've begun to think of it as something of a catch all term!
Colombian aguardiente reminds me of the anisada I had in Peru. I love the anis(e) flavor in pan de anis and in absinthe. It is definitely an anise lovers spirit! I also appreciate the fact that it is relatively low in alcohol at 29%. Apparently, this is a requirement.
Colombian Cumbé Aguardiente
In early 2021, I ordered 2 bottles of Cumbé Aguardiente from an online advertisement, and I really had no idea what to expect. The Cumbé Aguardiente website explains "After a masterful distillation in Colombia's highlands, our Aguardiente Master imbues each bottle with its unique soul in Colombian-Oak Barrels." It is made with "purest water from El Nevado del Quindio's
natural flow," "fresh sugar cane from the Cauca Valley," and "exotic pininella anis from the Andean Mountains." That's a lot of hype!
Did it deliver? Since I had no expectations, I would have to say yes. It is smooth enough to drink "neat," and the anis is well-balanced. I immediately looked at their How to Enjoy page for ideas for a cocktail. I landed on the Cumbé Old Fashioned. I changed up the proportions of the ingredients quite a bit, and used a coconut simple syrup in place of the panela syrup in their recipe. See the Ingredients section for more information on the ingredients.
What is Aguardiente Not?
My husband and I love small batch, complex bourbon and gin. Aguardiente is not very complex and layered like a good bourbon or gin. It does not contain complex flavors and compounds that improve with age. However, it is very pleasant.
I have read that some Colombians conside aguardiente to be "alcoholic koolaid." I beg to differ. We have nearly finished that second bottle, and I would not hesitate to buy it again. Of course, it won't replace a fine bourbon or gin!
📋 Ingredients You'll Need
Here is a quick look at the ingredients in the recipe – it’s handy to use at the grocery store or as a summary of what you need. Skip to the recipe for quantities.
- Colombian aguardiente - The anise component of this spirit is critical to the flavor of the aguardiente cocktail. I really like the Cumbé brand, but it's not the only one out there!
- mole bitters - My recipe specifies .5 ounce of mole bitters. A couple of years ago, I made mole bitters, and they keep for up to 5 years when stored properly. I have also used Xocolatl Mole Bitters. Both have a combination of chocolate and chiles which I find works well with the anise. The Cumbé recipe specifies chocolate bitters, and that is a good substitution.
- coconut simple syrup - I recently ordered Clean Cocktails in an effort to improve the quality of food and drink I consume. It includes a very simple recipe for a coconut syrup that uses unrefined coconut sugar and filtered water. It will keep in the refrigerator in a Mason jar for up to 3 months!
- grapefruit bitters - You only need a dash or two, but grapefruit bitters are an essential ingredient.
- grapefruit twist
- Gather tools and ingredients - You'll need a jigger, a cocktail shaker, and the cocktail ingredients.
- Mix the ingredients - Add cocktail ingredients - aguardiente, mole bitters, and coconut syrup - to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously, then strain into an appropriate glass.
- Serve - Garnish with a grapefruit twist, and shake 3 to 4 drops of grapefruit bitters. Enjoy!
How can I make the coconut syrup? Using a simple ratio of 2 parts coconut sugar to 1 part filtered water, bring it to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer for 6 to 8 minutes. The mixture should reduce by one-third. Cool completely before storing in an airtight jar.
What can I substitute for the coconut syrup? As I mentioned in the post, Cumbé specifies panela syrup, which you can make, or try molasses.
What kind of cocktail glass is best? I always recommend going with what you like. I am not a fan of ice in my cocktails, but you can pour it over a "rock" in a rocks glass. I love the modern square cocktail glasses in the photos. The cocktail is nice in a coupe glass as well.
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It's "cocktail hour" on Friday evening at Andersen casa, and my favorite bartender is fixin' to make me this lovely Aguardiente Cocktail. Here's to a delightful weekend... Cheers!