The 21st of December is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. But is also marks the end of the current period of the Mesoamerican Long Count Calendar, or the Mayan Calendar, hailed by some as the End of the World.*
Thinking about this, I set about creating some Apocalypse-themed cocktails. By a stroke of luck, the makers of Agwa de Bolvia, a coca leaf liqueur, are also interested in this theme and sent me a bottle to use in these cocktails.
Agwa de Bolivia is produced in Amsterdam, although its main ingredient, Coca leaves, are from Bolivia, where they are picked above 2,000 feet in the Andes. The leaves are macerated and the distilled to create a coca distillate. The distillate is then mixed with 36 other botanicals such as: Chinese green tea, African Mint, Amazonian Guarana, Argentinean black mountain tea, ginseng, lavender and cucumber.
As the Mayan people chewed coca leaves for their medicinal and cultural properties, Agwa seemed like a fitting ingredient to use in my themed cocktails.
1) The End of The World as We Know It
[20ml Amazonia Club Cachaca, 20ml Agwa de Bolivia, 20ml Orange Juice, 60ml Hot Water]
Dash of Bitters – Mix the first three ingredients in a heatproof-glass, top up with hot water and add the bitters, before sprinkling with paprika.
A warming drink with a pinch of spice from the paprika (for extra fire, use chilli powder). The Cachaca provides a good base and the Agwa de Bolivia adds some herbal notes and gives the drink a dry, chocolate-like finish. If you want a bit more power in your drink, you could use lemon juice instead of orange, but the orange does have a pleasant, wintery warmth. The bitters brings the drink together and adds a little extra pow.
The spice and temperature of this drink give the drink a good, solid warmth that stays with you, but without burning.
2) And I Feel Fine
[5ml Chilli/Pepper Vodka (10ml for extra fire), 20ml Agwa de Bolivia, 90ml Champagne]
Sweet and herbal to start, followed by the dry fruitiness of the Champagne and the touch of fire from the chilli vodka on the finish. (For another variation of this drink, why not substitute the chilli vodka for chilli-choc vodka (see cocktail #8 below)).
3) Fire & Brimstone
[40ml Darnley’s View Spiced Gin, 20ml Antica Formula, 10ml Campari, 10ml Cinnamon Liqueur] Shake, strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with flamed orange peel.
This is a rather spicy cocktail, with hints of ginger and cumin (from the gin) to start, followed by the sweetness and warm, winter spice of the cinnamon liqueur and then the deep, bitter herbal notes of the Red Vermouth (Antica Formula). The bitterness of the Campari, combined with some anise and a little dark chocolate or coconut, then makes its presence felt. Overall, this is a spicy, bitter-sweet drink. The flamed orange peel is great theatre, but also pulls the drink together with the scent of warm citrus.
[25ml Mezcal, 10ml Red Vermouth (Antica Formula), 15ml Agwa de Bolivia, 5ml Cardamom Distillate (or a crushed cardamom pod) - Shake and strain]
Smoky and musky, but with some sweetness, this drink has got an exotic hint of mystery, helped by the rather intriguing glassware. The vermouth adds some bitter, herbal notes which complement the sweeter, herbal nature of the Agwa. The cardamom adds a lively burst of spiciness.
[50ml Darnley’s View Spiced Gin, 10ml Agwa de Bolivia, Tonic/Ginger Ale]
Initially spicy, (cumin) with some sweeter herbal notes, followed by a distinct fruitiness. The touch of sweetness from the ginger ale gives it a nice lift and in the midst of all of these flavours, there’s something slightly reminiscent of golden rum, which was a nice surprise.
6) Going by the Book
[50ml Smoked Whisky (Talisker), 2 Dashes of Orange Bitters (Reagan’s)]
Add ingredients to a glass rinsed with Agwa de Bolivia.
A lovely, smoky nose is accompanied by powerful smoked wood notes on the taste, followed by some savouriness. The finish is peaty, mixed with dry chocolate and hint of creaminess, as well as some sweet and dry herbal notes from the Agwa. The orange bitters add some extra spice and warmth to the middle of the drink.
7) The King Left Behind
[20ml Cognac, 20ml Agwa de Bolivia, 20ml King’s Ginger - SHAKE]
A smooth, rich and spicy cocktail with plenty of warmth and dominant flavours of fiery ginger and a rich creaminess. The herbs, including the anise in the Agwa, work well with the ginger. Very smooth and slightly sweet, but altogether rather delicious.
8) Chilli-Choc Vodka
Although not used in any of the above cocktails, chilli vodka is easy and relatively quick to make at home. You will need:
A bottle of vodka (700ml)
2 Chilli Peppers (Green or Red, depending on desired heat)
4tsp of Powdered Cocoa (e.g. Bournville)
Empty the vodka into a jug.
Add the cocoa to the empty bottle.
Slit the chilli peppers down the middle and add to the bottle.
Refill the bottle with the vodka. N.B. You may have a little vodka (25ml-50ml) left over – use this to make yourself a little drink.
Make sure the lid of the bottle is firmly attached and shake vigorously.
Leave in a warm place, shaking every half hour or so.
After three hours, have a little taste and, if you are happy with the flavour, strain out the cocoa and chillies with a coffee filter or fine sieve.
*In fact, many scholars dispute this and previous advocates of a great event taking place on 21st December 2012 have now changed their minds and it’s just expected to be, in the word of Wings, “Another Day”.