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Mar 14, 2010

Product Review: Agwa Cocoa Leaf Liquor

Since its recent introduction, Agwa de Bolivia Herbal Liquor has attracted many enthusiastic followers. But, then, how could it miss? Anything made from hand-picked coca leaves growing wild in the Bolivian Andes is practically guaranteed to have enthusiasts...even if, as in the case of Agwa, the liquor has been "de-cocainized" in the process of turning it into a spirit.

After picking, the leaves are shipped under armed guard in 2000-kilo bales to Amsterdam. Once there, they undergo a de-cocaining process before being infused with alcohol and steeped for a time with 36 herbs and botanicals. The result, according to the marketing material, is the "AgwaBuzz."

Agwa's Buzz has a slightly different effect when compared to other liquors--particularly when mixed in a cocktail with lime juice, which supposedly activates the various coca leaf alkaloids.

In the Andes, coca leaves have been used for centuries to improve stamina, ward off hunger, and, I suppose, provide a pleasurable buzz. Drinking coca-leaf tea is common there, and the leaves are chewed for nutrients like calcium, iron, and Vitamin A. Years ago I hiked the infamous Inca Trail to Macchu Picchu. On the most difficult day of our 5-day trek we hiked up Dead Woman's Pass, which tops off at a bit under 14,000 feet. Before starting off that morning one of the porters offered me some coca leaves and mineral lime, indicating that chewing them together would provide me with energy for the ascent. He was right.

The mineral lime I chewed certainly activated the alkaloids, but I don't understand how lime juice can accomplish the same task--especially when the zap has been removed from the leaves. But what do I know? Maybe there's some chemical similarity that does the trick. At any rate, Agwa definitely has a buzz, though that may be attributed more to its 60-proof strength.

Imbibed by itself like a traditional liqueur, Agwa has a medicinal taste that's not unpleasant, but I'm not about to tell you it's delicious. It isn't. However, mix it into a cocktail and Agwa shines.

And you simply cannot overlook the fun quotient involved with this unique addition to the marketplace.

Here's a recipe to try:

Bolivian Mojito
This summer refresher is made with Agwa instead of rum. This recipe makes one Mojito.

1 teaspoon powdered sugar
Juice from 1 lime (2 ounces)
6 mint leaves
1 sprig of mint
2 ounces Agwa Coca Leaf Liquor
2 ounces club soda

Place the mint leaves into a tall mojito glass. Add lime juice. Add the powdered sugar. Muddle mint into the lime juice and sugar, using a muddler or the back of a spoon.  Add crushed ice and rum. Stir, topping off with club soda. Garnish with mint sprig


Read complete details of Agwa's distillation process
Here's a huge list of Agwa recipes
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