One of the most important customs when traveling is to try the local drink. Often this is more or less unavoidable as any local you meet on a night out will be quick to ask if you’ve had the pleasure of trying it before buying you a glass. In Argentina, that drink is Fernet; in Poland you’ll be offered bison grass vodka; in England you’ll be sipping warm beer in a pub. Colombia’s tipple of choice is known as Aguardiente, which roughly translates to burning water. Promising stuff.
Aguardiente is an anise-flavored drink that’s generally 29% volume. It’s the most popular alcoholic drink all over Colombia, with the exception of Colombia’s Caribbean coast where rum is preferred. Despite its comparatively low alcohol content (whiskies and vodkas generally contain about 40%) it’s actually a strongly flavored drink that will make you grimace and, as the name suggests, your insides suitably warmed.
So popular is aguardiente that it’s drunk in all sorts of places – including on long-distance buses. You’re almost guaranteed to see people from older generations drinking it at all times throughout the day, as an accompaniment to a meal or just socially.
You’re most likely, however, to come across it on a night out in Bogotá, Medellín or Cartagena and thankfully buying a bottle to share amongst friends isn’t very expensive. With a glass full of aguardiente you’ll immediately blend into your surroundings and look like a true Colombian.
The most popular brand in Colombia is Aguardiente Antioqueño, which has won several international awards. So prepare yourself to try it, after all, it’d be rude not to wouldn’t it?