You’ll see the stuff being ordered by the bottle and shared around at parties and bars, particularly in the high mountainous regions. I’m probably not the fairest judge because I loathe aniseed and Colombian Aguardiente tastes like some evil genius fermented Liquorice Allsorts. Imagine someone extracted everything that makes Sambucca vaguely drinkable and you’re halfway to understanding the awfulness.
Check out this blog for a witty account of the horror of aguardiente.
Beer: As we move out of Central America, the beer situation improves markedly. Yes, you are still assaulted with Latin much-of-a-muchness pilsners, such as Aguila, Pilsen and the slightly more complex Club Colombia.
But Colombians have noted the micro-brewing revolutions going on elsewhere and are responding, with varying degrees of success. 3 Cordilleras, Moonshine and Apostol all boast a strong range including Pale Ales, Weizen and Ambers, most of which offer a decent alternative to light pilsner without being particularly memorable. They can be found in many supermarkets and some bars in the bigger cities too.
The most successful among the new brewing breed is the Bogota Beer Company, which has the most impressive armoury of anywhere I’ve found in Latin America so far.
The highlight though was the Raquel pale ale from the Chelarte brewery, a robust and hoppy American ale at 5% ABV that could hold its own among what you’d find in any bar in Portland or San Francisco. Here it is alongside a tasty Moonshine Amber Ale, served with dinner at Bogota’s wonderful Salvo Patria restaurant (featured in Franki’s ‘How to be a hipster in Bogota’ post).
Other: Slim pickings beyond beer and aguardiente i’m afraid. Colombia’s big cities all have some high-end restaurants but if you’re drinking wine you will be emptying your wallet pretty quickly.
If you like gin (hello Franki!) be prepared for a shock. It may be among the cheapest drinks in Anglo-Saxon countries but it sells for the price of a small car in Colombia. Honourable mention goes to the Agua de Mar restaurant in Cartagena, which has a comprehensive gin list, albeit for a king’s ransom.
Being Caribbean, Cartagena also has plenty of rum on offer but nothing local to write home about.
Top tipple: Un Cajica Honey Ale por favor.
Gourmet’s choice: The Raquel pale ale from Chelarte
Bubbling under: A gin and tonic at Agua de Mar, Cartagena
What to slur drunkenly: “I frickin’ HATE aniseed!!
Next stop on Booze of the World: Caipirinha time…it’s Brazil
* Sobering tip: Do not leave your drink unattended. Drink-spiking with the aim of robbing or sexually assaulting people is a problem in Colombia. Be aware of where your drink is at all times and don’t accept anything from strangers that isn’t sealed when you get it.