Walk into any Colombian bar, house, club or even little shop on the street corner and you will be sure to find a bunch of merry Colombians chuckling away as they down shot after shot of aguardiente. For this is the country’s national spirit, which transcends social, racial, cultural and professional boundaries. It can be found in every walk of life, every section of society and it unites people from entirely different backgrounds.
Now, that’s all well and good. In fact it’s great. But my only question remains ‘why?’. For this is a drink that, at least for the first two or three shots, tastes absolutely foul and leaves you wondering what you have done to deserve such treatment. Your mind races as your tongue burns and goes numb all at once.
Anyone who claims to like this abomination (and there are plenty of Colombians who will try to make this wild declaration) is clearly telling porkies. Nobody enjoys drinking it. The clue’s in the name really. Literally translating as ‘burning water’, it makes you wonder why people have continued to drink it for so long. Aniseed and sugarcane mix in such a diabolical fashion that your taste-buds quiver at the sight of a bottle and your brain goes in circles trying to explain what your hand is doing.
Yet, despite all this, when Friday comes after a long gruelling week, my mind can only go to one place – somebody’s sofa, with a lukewarm bottle in one hand, a cold beer to wash it down with in the other, a slightly disgusted and bemused look on my face and the strangely satisfying realisation that the weekend has begun and ended at the same time.