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Properly Sauced - Agwa de Bolivia Coca Liqueur

By Anthony Todd in Food on Mar 10, 2010 6:40PM


Occasionally, we come across a new boozy ingredient that catches our eye. There are always new brands of vodka or new vintages of wine, but once in a while something really different calls out to us in the liquor store. Sometimes, this is a good thing. And sometimes... well, let's just say tasting booze isn't always fun and games.

Agwa de Bolivia is distilled from "decocainised" Bolivian Coca leaves, "shipped to Amsterdam under armed guard" before being mixed with 36 other herbs and botanicals (and a heck of a lot of food coloring). We're not gonna lie - the color is a little offputting. The coca leaves impart a slight minty flavor to Agwa, and you can guess what we thought of the first time we did a shot. The urge to swish it around and spit it back out was almost more than we could handle.

This isn't to say that Agwa doesn't have it's uses. As a sipping liqueur, Agwa is a bust, but as an ingredient in mixed drinks, it has the potential to shine. Because of the unfamiliar flavor of the Coca, if used in a drink Agwa has the ability to cause a "huh, what is that?" moment. The "Bolivian Margarita" is the most promising - a margarita in which the triple sec is replaced by Agwa.

As is common with niche liqueurs, the creators don't seem to know when to stop. Suggested cocktail recipes include replacing practically every liquor in the cabinet with Agwa in drinks. Agwa Martini, Agwa and Coffee, Agwa and Red Bull; the list goes on. The basic "Agwa Lemon Drop" is tasty - mix 1 part citrus vodka with 2 parts Agwa and lemon sugar. Others almost made us retch at the thought and we refused to test them. The "Russian Reactor" is a combination of Agwa and "your favorite malt beverage" for a "drink with unique taste and appearance." Unique isn't always a good thing. The prize for "Worst Idea Ever" goes to the "Dirty Habit" - Guinness floated on a shot of Agwa. Who decided that Guinness would be improved by adding minty green liqueur? A dirty habit indeed.