If you are of Hispanic background or have friends who are, then you may have heard of Aguardiente. The clear spirit has an anise flavor to it and thus has the name roughly meaning "fire water." It is an acquired taste that many either love or hate with nothing in between. It can be enjoyed in several ways once you understand what it truly is.
Aguardiente is a very strong alcohol that is obtained by fermenting and distilling one or a combination of the below:
One of the most common varieties is the one that is made in Colombia, primarily in the Andean region. It is made from distilling sugarcane and then adding various amounts of aniseed, giving the liqueur the black licorice flavor. Some say that it has the same kind of flavor as Jaegermeister. It is commonly enjoyed throughout South America and the Caribbean, with the exception of where rum is more prevalent. Many choose either rum or the anise beverage but not both.
Because the distillation process is defined by the European Union as a product that has been distilled from an agricultural product, the product could be referred to as other things as well. Aguardiente is very unique, however by definition, it could easily be confused with vodka, pisco or even chicha.
Many believe that Aguardiente and cachaca are the same product, however it has been concluded after a lot of analysis that, while similar, they are different products. Cachaca is obtained from fermenting and distilling sugar cane juice without many additional ingredients and is therefore much sweeter.
Aguardiente is a very pure, strong drink that is rarely mixed with other liquors. Because of its potency and flavor, it makes for a great aperitif, though some will use it as a digestif because of the anise flavor. Either way, it is served cold. You can place it in a cocktail shaker with ice, shake and strain into a glass or serve it on the rocks. For those looking to reduce the alcohol content a little, it can also be mixed with club soda or lemon lime soda and sipped for enjoyment.
You can find Aguardiente in just about any liquor store, locally or online. It will be in the same section as rums, though you may have to ask for a little assistance locating it. There are several brands that make it and you should look at the label to see where it is manufactured. Depending on where it was made will give you an indication of the flavor that you can expect to get from it once you get it home. Made in Colombia gives you the anise, licorice flavored liqueur, Brazil will give you something closer to rum and some other countries will be a little fruitier, depending upon what they use in the fermenting process. Either variety you choose, it will be a unique flavor that you can enjoy in a very pure form.