Vodka qué? That tends to be a common response from bartenders across Latin America as I attempt to order my go to vodka soda. And I’ve tried all the translations I could come up with for seltzer water… agua mineral, agua con gas, agua gaseada, ese agua que tiene búrbujas (I have literally said that jaja). Even the more obvious vodka soda or vodka con soda with as much of a Spanish accent that I can muster. Sometimes they get it, but it’s more common that I end up with a shot of vodka with a glass of seltzer on the side—yes, this has actually happened to me! So I’ve ended up explaining to the bartender that yes, I do want the seltzer and vodka mixed together. In the process the explanation takes longer than actually mixing this simple drink. And if I’m in the mood for Tito’s with a splash of cranberry… well, let’s not even go there. Asking for arándano is always a surprise since it translates to about six different types of berries.
Bring on the Aguardiente
So I’ve had to resign myself to the fact that my beverage of choice is not so popular once you head south of South Beach. But it’s not the end of the world—I figure it’s a good excuse to forget about the calories and take the opportunity to try something a bit more local. When I was in Colombia, they were all about the aguardiente, which luckily paired decently with my fave mixer of agua con gas. And there’s even a sugar free version if you’re worried about the calories! I had hoped to chat with one of the bartenders during the viaje to ask about the mysterious world of aguardiente based cocktails, but unfortunately most bars I frequented were more focused on the fiesta than the mixology lessons. If the bartender was able to decipher any word that I said over the reggaeton blasting in the background, I figured the communication had been a success.
But now that I’ve had some time to research, I found a concoction that’s a bit more sophisticated. Did you really think I would leave you with an aguardiente soda as your cocktail of the month to taste? The aguardiente sour is a classic Colombian cocktail that you can enjoy when you have time to sit and savor it—free from the distractions of any perreando on the dance floor. Here’s how it’s done:
6 oz aguardiente (you should be able to find the easily recognizable white and red label at your local liquor store)
2 oz lime juice (hopefully as tasty, tangy, and freshly squeezed as you can find from the street vendors in Cartagena)
4 oz orange juice
1 tsp sugar
1 egg white, beaten (skip if you want a lighter, vegan version that’s equally deliciosa!)
And it’s easy to make! Just mix everything together in a cocktail shaker with ice and serve in your favorite kind of glass. No need to worry about any complicated mixology techniques.
If you’re looking for something quicker, you can always make that aguardiente soda so that you will indeed have time to get your perreo on. To tell you the truth, I usually just had the aguardiente straight to get the night going. By the end of the trip I couldn’t even look at that all too familiar bottle. I had to leave it to die a slow death when I checked out of my hotel room. Before I get back to drinking agaurdiente straight I think this cocktail will do just the trick in easing me back in.
And let’s not forget some canciones colombianos to enjoy with your coctel. Look out for Shakira’s duet with Prince Royce—who knew she could pull off bachata so seamlessly? Okay, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. After all, what can’t she do?