Lately I’ve been getting a lot of press releases from different companies running contests or touting new or improved alcohols and I’m thrilled to be able to share then with you guys. Don’t worry, though, I won’t be turning this into an announcement list for beverage distributors–we’re going to be pretty choosy about what makes it through the gate.
One bit of news that did catch my eye was about the new liqueur, AGWA de Bolivia. Not going to lie, what made me sit up and take notice was the fact that this liqueur is distilled from Coca leaves.
Yes, really, those coca leaves.
A few years back I picked up a book that looked interesting, mostly because I misread the title as I wandered through the bookstore. What I though was about Native American medicine (thinking medicine wheel or trail of tears sort of thing) turned out to be about alternative/natural medicines among various ancient cultures spread out around the world. And while the author did spend quite a bit of time searching for and describing the potential of a Viagra-substitute, the book was an interesting read and featured a bit about the importance of coca to the Peruvian culture.
And, of course, being from the South we all know about coca being part of the original Coca-Cola.
But back to the topic of the day! AGWA de Bolivia is a coca leaf liqueur (along with over 30 other herbs) but before anything else happens, the leaves are decocainized. I didn’t know that was a process, either, but I suppose it’s like decaffeinating coffee beans or tea leaves. And, really, it’s not like it’d be allowed in this country if it were truly laced with cocaine, right?
The same folks who kindly offered to send me a sample of this new liqueur also included a few starter recipes to try it out.
First I tried the Bolivian Kiss–it’s a simple 1-2 punch of bite the lime, take the shot. Only I don’t really see the point in shooting alcohol: it want to taste what I’m drinking, not get drunk. So the shot? Not so much. But the flavor combination of the lime and the AGWA was quite refreshing. On the agwabuzz website they also have a recipe for the AGWA Fresca and I’ll bet it’s delicious with the lime and soda water.
Next up was the Red Devil: AGWA and Cranberry. Todd and I both found this one to be surprisingly good. I mean, cranberry gets mixed with a lot of different alcohols and does pretty well, but on it’s own the juice can be a little thin, a little sharp, and very tart. It’s cranberry, after all. But add about an ounce of AGWA? Totally different story! The AGWA doesn’t assert itself over the cranberry, it blends together and creates this warm, soft, round flavor and feel–even on the rocks. This one we will be trying again.
Finally it was time to test the recipe that really made me curious from the original information: the Green Angel. It has two ingredients I dearly love–gin and limoncello–so I knew we had to give it a whirl.
The Green Angel
4 large Basil leaves
1/2 oz Limoncello
1 1/4 oz Gin
3/4 oz AGWA de Bolivia
3/4 oz Apple juice
Lime and Vanilla sugar for garnish
In the bottom of a shaker, bruise the basil leaves into the limoncello with a muddler. Fill the mixing glass half-full of ice and stir to coat with the limoncello. Strain off the limoncello and add the gin, AGWA de Bolivia and apple juice to the mixing glass. Shake like your attempting lift off and strain into a chilled cocktail glass rimmed with vanilla sugar.
I adjusted their recipe a little–converted it from milliliters to ounces, muddled the basil with the limoncello rather than just stirring it around (and using only half of what they called for since I had huge basil leaves), and I shook it instead of stirring. It’s a preference thing.
The Green Angel reminds me of these little candies a friend gave me back in high school. They were French rosewater sugar drops with a little bit of licorice in the center. This cocktail has almost an anise touch to it–Todd said it reminded him of the monkey-face licorice we got back in Nebraska–but I don’t know that there’s any licorice actually in there, it’s just the first impression we each got. The lemon and basil are subtle, the gin in pretty good accord with the AGWA and the apple adds enough sweet to balance out the herbal notes from both alcohols. Not as sweet as I thought it would be, but a very tasty libation.
The Red Devil was obviously our favorite. If you’d like to give it a try you can find out who in your area is likely to carry AGWA de Bolivia (if you’re lucky enough to have a BevMo, try there first) at aqwabuzz.com
Oh! And an aside about the limoncello. For the love of lemons do not just pour out the limoncello and discard it! The hint of basil in the limoncello adds an amazing depth of flavor. In fact, I’d even suggest giving it a try on purpose.