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A man in Colombia pouring a shot of aguardiente.

Aguardiente (Spanish), aguardente (Portuguese), augardente/caña (Galician) or oruxu (Leonese), is the generic name for alcoholic drinks between 29 and 60 percent alcohol, meaning "firewater", or, literally "burning water" [1]. The word itself is a compound word, combining the words for water ("agua" in Spanish, "água" in Portuguese, or "auga" in Galician) and burning ("ardiente" in Spanish, "ardente" in Portuguese and Galician).



By definition, aguardientes are strongly alcoholic beverages, obtained by fermentation and later distillation of sugared or sweet musts, vegetable macerations, or mixtures of the two. This is the most generic level; by this definition aguardientes may be made from a number of different sources. Fruit-based aguardientes include those made from oranges, grapes, bananas, or madronho. Grain-based ones may be made from millet, barley, or rice and tuber-based aguardientes from beet, manioc, or potato, and finally what are classed as "true" aguardientes from sugarcane and other sweet canes including some species of bamboo. Under this definition, many other distinct liquors could be called aguardientes, including Vodka, Sake, Pisco, and certain forms of hard Chicha.

On 14 November 1996, it was concluded in analysis that Cane Aguardiente and Cachaça are similar but distinct products. Cane Aguardiente was thereafter defined in Brazil as an alcoholic beverage of between 38% and 54% alcohol by volume, obtained by simple fermentation and distillation of sugarcane, which may have added sugar up to 6 g/L. Cachaça, on the other hand, is an alcoholic beverage of between 38% and 48% alcohol by volume, obtained by fermentation and distillation of select sugarcane that has already been used in the sugar-production process, and which has distinct flavour similar to rum.


This is a condensed version, for the complete history please see the main article History of alcohol

Some histories state that the Egyptians were the first to use fermented liquors, as cures for diverse medical conditions. The ancient Greeks however, pioneered the process of creating and distilling ácqua ardens. Greek aguardientes were created by distilling wine; the Treaty of the Sciences, written by Pliny, contains a fragment of the original recipes as well as the process of distillation using Cedar balsam. Later, the Egyptians developed the first alambics, the designs of which adorn the walls of the temple at Memphis. The Arabic language gives us the words "alambic" (al 'ambic, or glass of distillation) and "alcohol" (al 'cohol, the vapours of distillation.) The expansion of the Roman Empire brought aguardiente to Europe and the Middle East and aguardiente became the base of alchemical elixirs such as the Elixer of Longevity.

In the Middle Ages, in a 1250 study of distillation by Arnaut de Villeneuve, he described the "spirit" of wine; later his contemporary, Raymond Lulle, through the process of distillation 3 or 4 times over very low heat, claimed to have discovered in wine the essences of the four elements, Earth, Air, Water, and Fire. By about 1730, ageing distilled aguardientes had become common practice, and now in the 20th century these are considered distinct from "pure" or "raw" (ie unaged) aguardientes.

North America and South America

Colombian Aguardiente "Aguardiente Antioqueño"

In Colombia, aguardiente is an anise-flavoured liqueur derived from sugar cane, popular in the Andean region. Each department of Colombia holds the rights to produce it, but aguardiente produced in one region can be sold in another. By adding different amounts of aniseed, different flavours are obtained, leading to extensive marketing and fierce competition between brands. Aguardiente has a 29% alcohol content. Other anise-flavoured liqueurs similar to aguardiente but with a lower alcohol content are also sold. Aguardiente has maintained since the Spanish era the status of the most popular alcoholic beverage in the andean regions of Colombia with the notable exception of the Caribbean Region in which the Rum is king. Colombians in the andean regions drink it straight as individual shots and they rarely use it in cocktails.

In Chile, aguardiente is an alcoholic beverage of 45% and higher alcohol content by volume. It is made, like Italian grappa, by distilling the grape residue, primarily the skins and pulp (orujo) plus the stems (escobajos) and seeds, left over from winemaking after pressing the grapes. It is used to make several other flavored liquors like the murtado or enmurtillado (using sun dried murtilla, an orange-reddish wild rose fruit), the enguindado (soaking sun dried morello cherries) and licor de oro (flavored with saffron and lemon peel). Dried mint, peeled walnuts, almonds, and other aromatic herbs are also used to flavor the aguardiente. It is mainly consumed by itself, or as a base to make cola de mono ("monkey tail").

In Brazil, an aguardente known as cachaça or pinga, considered distinct from traditional aguardiente, is made from sugar cane. Cachaça, like rum, has two varieties: unaged (white) and aged (gold). White cachaça is usually bottled immediately after distillation and tends to be cheaper. It is often used to prepare caipirinha and other beverages in which cachaça is an ingredient. Dark cachaça, usually seen as the "premium" variety, is aged in wood barrels and is meant to be drunk pure. Traditionally no herbs are used to flavour the cachaça and its flavour is influenced by the fermentation agent, time spent in the cask or type of wood from which the barrel is made.

In Mexico in the state of Michoacan, charanda is a traditional rum-like sugarcane aguadiente.

Brazilian Cachaça bottle

In Ecuador, aguardiente is also derived from sugarcane but unlike Colombia it is left largely unflavoured. It is then taken straight as shots, mulled with cinnamon and fruit juices to make the hot cocktail called canelazo, or mixed with the juice of agave masts and Grenadine syrup for the hot cocktail called Draquita. Locally or artisanally made aguardiente is commonly called Punta, and alcohol content can vary widely, from "mild" puntas of about 10% to "strong" of about 40% or higher. The traditional distillation process produces aguardiente as strong as 60GL. Every Ecuadorian province has a slightly different flavour to the aguardiente produced there, and equally each province has a different recipe for canelazo. Commercially, aguardiente is marketed on a national scale by the companies Zhumir and Cristal, (among others) who both offer a number fruit-flavoured versions of the liquor along with the traditional flavourless variety. Both companies also offer sparkling coolers based on aguardiente that are similar to the vodka coolers available in North America. In Ecuador, aguardiente is the most commonly consumed strong alcohol.


Galicia, the north-western region of Spain, is renowned for its quality and variety of Augardentes. Probably the most famous type is Augardente de Orujo, which is obtained from the distillation of the pomace of grapes and is clear in colour. It typically contains over 50% alcohol, sometimes significantly more, and is still made traditionally in many villages across Galicia today. Augardente de Herbas, which is usually yellow in colour, is a sweet liqueur made with Augardente de Orujo and herbs(herbas), with chamomile being a substantial ingredient[2]. Café Licor is black in colour and is a sweet liqueur made with Augardente de Orujo, coffee(café) and sugar. Crema de Caña is a cream liqueur based on augardente, coffee, cream, milk and other ingredients. It's pretty similar to Irish cream liqueur. In some places in Galicia a small glass is traditionally had at breakfast time as a pick-me-up before a hard day's work on the land. It should be noted that the word "Orujo" is actually Spanish and not Galician, but is used to distinguish Galician and some Spanish augardentes from those of other countries [3].


Portuguese aguardente has several varieties. Aguardente vínica is distilled from wine, either of good quality or undrinkable wines. It's mostly used to fortify wines like Port or aged to make aguardente velha (old burning water), a kind of brandy. There is also aguardente bagaceira that is made of pomace as a way to prevent waste after the wine season. It is usually bootlegged, as most drinkers only appreciate it in its traditional 50% to 80% ABV. The most common way to drink it is added to espresso, in what is known as a café com cheirinho (coffee with scent). In the Azores, this espresso-aguardente combination is commonly referred to as "café com música" (coffee with music).


  1. ^ "aguardiente. (De agua y ardiente)" - Real Academia Española dictionary, 22nd edition [1]
  2. ^ Galicia Espallada
  3. ^ Gastronomia Galega

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