A generic name for drinks with contents of alcohol around 29 and 60 percent, the word is a compound word between the Spanish word for water ”agua” and burning ”ardiente”, literally meaning ”burning water” or ”firewater”.
Aguardientes are produced through fermentation and later distillation of sweet- or sugared- must or vegetable macerations or a mixture of the two, this is the most generic level and there are also several different ”subgroups” of aguardientes:
1. Fruit-based – Aguardientes made from oranges, grapes, bananas or madronho.
2. Grain-based – Made from millet, barley, or rice.
3. Tuber-based – Based on beets, manioc or potatoes.
4. True-Aguardiente – Made from sugarcanes and other sweet canes and in some cases even bamboo.
By defining what an aguardiente is by this definiton several alcoholic beverages, such as Vodka, Sake and Pisco can be called aguardiente. It is believed that the ancient Egyptians were the first ones to use fermented liquors as cures for different medical conditions. It then spread to Greece where they started to make ancient Greek aguardientes by distilling wine, the knowledge of creating aguardientes later spread on through the rest of Europe with the expansion of the Roman Empire.
In the Americas the word aguardiente has another meaning and definition depending on what country you are in, Colombians define aguardiente as an anise-flavored liquor derived from the sugar cane, while in Chile it is defined as an alcoholic beverage with an alcohol level above 45%.
In Ecuador locally or artisanally made aguardiente is called Punta and the alcohol may vary from around 10% to 40% with every region within Ecuador having its own specific flavor and manner of distilliation. In Ecuador it is popular to drink punta as a shot flavored with cinnamon and different fruit juices to make the popular cocktail known as Canelazo.