By Herb Gardener –
A journey into the spirit world — of alcoholic beverages, that is — can be bewildering to the uninitiated. High-end bars have come to resemble apothecaries where Red Bull (energy drink) runs with Hpnotiq (exotic fruit juices/vodka/cognac blend) and liquor wells sport more infused vodka flavors than my wife Flora has pairs of shoes in her closet.
What young customers in particular seem to want from their drinking experience today is pep and vitality, not sedation. Is it any surprise, then, that a distiller from free-thinking Amsterdam has created a coca-leaf liqueur?
Before sampling AGWA de Bolivia I visited the liqueur’s web site to learn more about the product and its marketing, http://www.agwabuzz.com/. AGWA revels in the coca leaf’s history, first as a 4,500 year-old high-altitude curative in the Andes then as the source of the cocaine alkaloid, isolated in 1859. Embracing the mystique and controversy makes for interesting reading, but the critical test is whether anyone finds the 60-proof beverage itself palate appealing.
The web site describes AGWA’s taste as, “Not unpleasant with a (sic) herbal and botanical taste like the coca leaf which is quite topical.” Captivated? Perhaps more to the point is the claim that drinking AGWA with lime produces the “AGWAbuzz”— a chemical reaction that mimics the oxygen boost one derives from chewing the leaf or drinking coca leaf tea at high altitude. While I noticed no appreciable difference in pep from the AGWA/lime combination, Flora was too distracted by the prospect of DEA agents surrounding our home to report reliable observations. Yes, Flora, AGWA’s leaves are de-cocained and perfectly legal.
Of AGWA’s 36 additives two merit special attention. Both ginseng and guarana are natural plant extracts with purported medicinal properties, the former known in the Far East as an aphrodisiac. This is a potential plus for bar singles, too.
Is AGWA simply a curiosity, or can it establish a commercial presence in a crowded field of spirits? You, gentle reader, will make the decision. Here is a cocktail recipe from the AGWA web site submitted for your consideration.
Machu Pichu Bloody Mary
“Take your best Bloody Mary recipe and make it with AGWA instead of vodka for an up-scaled Bloody Mary that will tune you in.”