I love traveling. Well, not so much the journey (the airlines have sucked all the joy out of that), but the destination. For me, traveling is all about eating and drinking. And I try to follow a When in Rome travel philosophy . . . I’ll have what the locals are having. Because eating a Big Mac in Rome is wrong. The only reason I will go into a McDonald’s in Europe is if I’m desperate for a bathroom. There’s always a bathroom in McDonald’s. It’ll be a three-story McDonald’s with 5,000 people crammed inside. There will be a people to toilet ratio of 5,000 to 1 . . . but there will be a toilet. Anyhow . . .
I have a girlfriend who shares the same When in Rome traveling philosophy, and over the years, we’ve developed a little cultural exchange we call Hooch Swap. Whenever we travel, we buy a bottle of the local hooch from wherever we are, and bring it home. Then we get together and savor a taste of some far-flung corner of the world — Germany, South Africa, Argentina . . . Vermont.
My girlfriend’s latest treasure is Aguardiente from Colombia. Aguardiente is an anise-flavored liquor made from sugarcane.
It comes in a box that’s exactly the same size as a child’s juice box. All it’s missing is the bendy straw. Can you imagine the potential social debacle if you accidentally sent Junior to school with this instead of apple juice??
Literally translated, Aguardiente means fire water. And that about sums it up. I’ve never eaten fire before, but I imagine it tastes a lot like Aguardiente. Aguardiente is “only” 29% alcohol, but it could strip the paint off a car.
My girlfriend says the Colombians drink Aguardiente straight, but I’m a wuss (I like my stomach fire-free), so I sipped mine with an ice cube. If I ever find myself on the streets of Colombia, I will, of course, drink it straight. But I’m in Virginia, so the ice cube stays.
Aguardiente tastes a lot like Ouzo . . . and I really like Ouzo. But Aguardiente has an aggressiveness to it that’s tough for me to get past. That said, Aguardiente has a lighter mouth-feel than Ouzo, but it seems hotter, more alcoholic. Given that Ouzo has the higher alcohol content (40% vs. 29%), that seems odd. Ouzo is also a bit sweeter, so perhaps that throws off some of the heat? I’m sure there’s some kind of academic, sciency explanation for this.
I don’t hate Aguardiente . . . but I don’t think I’ll be having any wicked Aguardiente cravings any time soon. But as always, I am grateful for the chance to taste a little bit of a land far, far away.