Traveling in Colombia works up a thirst. And for those of us who like to kick back at the end of the day and enjoy an adult beverage there are plenty of accommodating bars and restaurants. Some lounges and clubs in the major cities have mixologists who inoculate wonderful infusions of Colombian spirits and exotic tropical fruit juices.
(see article: Healthy, Fresh, Colombian Fruit Juices)
After a day of hard travel it’s very appealing to head back to your room, grab a shower and kick back in front of a fan. Most people usually grab a few cold ones on the way back to the hotel. Beer is the national alcoholic thirst quencher. Rum and Aguardiente are native spirits, earmarked for inebriation and used in a number of easy-to-make cocktails.
Here are a few simple cocktail recipes to mix in a hotel room with ingredients readily available throughout Colombia.
For most of these drink recipes you’ll only need a glass, knife and some ice would be nice. Drink ingredients can be readily found in any local supermarket. A couple drink recipes require a blender, pretty much a standard kitchen utensil in any Colombian house or apartment.
Easy Cocktail Recipes
Refajo – is a popular Colombian drink made with beer and Postobon’s Colombiana Cola Champagne, a popular soda sold in Colombia. It is a very simple recipe, similar to a Summer Shandy which is made with lemonaid and beer – both refreshing and delicious.
Mix 1 part Colombiana soda to 2 parts beer. A refajo cocktail requires a shot of Aguardiente.
Limonada de Coco – is a popular non-alcoholic drink also used to make popsicles. With some rum it can be made into an easy Colombian cocktail.
In a blender mix together coconut milk (you can find this at most supermarkets in frozen packages) a little sugar, freshly squeezed lime juice and dark rum. Blend until smooth adding more sugar and lime juice to taste. Garnish with fresh mint.
Cuba Libre – is similar to a rum and coke. But the addition of fresh lime juice lightens up this drink and cuts through the sweetness of the cola. Dating back to the 1900s in Cuba – Cuba Libre was a popular drink. Translated it means ‘freed Cuba’ – a rallying cry against the Spanish occupiers.
Fill a glass with ice, add rum, a squeeze of lime juice and Coca-Cola. Stir and garnish with lime wedge
Mojito – also called a Cuban Highball – is a popular drink dating back the 1500s and originating in Cuba.
In a glass muddle* 2 tsp. of sugar with lime juice, some mint leaves then add some ice, white rum and soda, sparkling water or Sprite. The sugar can be left out if you want a more refreshing drink. Garnish with mint leaves. Mojitos can also be made with Aguardiente instead of rum.
(*Muddling – is done by taking a muddler or the back of a spoon to smash and mix (muddle) drink ingredients together.)
Rum Daiquiri -is another Cuban classic dating back to 1900. The original Daiquiri uses rum but it can be made using just about any fruit like bananas, strawberries and pineapple.
In a shaker add a shot of rum, 1/2 tsp. of sugar or simple syrup, lime juice and ice. Shake a strain into a glass. No shaker – no problem. Just stir or give the ingredients a quick whirl in a blender. Or if you can find two glasses of different sizes, one that fits inside the other, you have a shaker.
Caipirinha – is the national drink of Brazil. It is usually made with Cachaca, which is a rum distilled from fermented cane juice. But Colombian rum can be substituted.
Muddle a lime wedge and sugar in a glass. Add ice, rum and stir.
Mint Julep – the drink’s origin dates back to the Arab world though it was made famous in the southern United States and became the official cocktail of the Kentucky Derby horserace back in 1938. The drink is simple.
Muddle together mint leaves and white sugar, add a shot of brown whisky, fill glass with ice and garnish with a mint sprig.
Aguardiente Sour – is a popular cocktail made in most of Colombia and is also easy to make at home.
In a blender or shaker add 2 shots of Aguardiente, a splash of lime juice, a shot of orange juice, 1 tablespoon of sugar and an egg white. Shake or blend then strain into a glass.
Pina Colada -is a cocktail whose origins can be traced back to Puerto Rico in 1954. It’s a perfect summer sipping drink.
In a blender add chunks of pineapple or pineapple juice, coconut milk, a shot of rum, a little sugar and ice. Blend until smooth and adjust the amount of sugar and rum to taste.
Coco Loco – this is a popular cocktail served at most of Colombia’s busy beaches. It’s a little hard to make in your hotel room. But if you like Long Island Ice Tea, you’ll like this drink.
It’s a blend of equal parts rum, tequila, vodka and lime juice served over ice in a half shelled coconut.
Corrected Coffee – is an Italian favorite where they add a half a shot of grappa or cognac to an expresso. In South America it is also called a Cafe Caribbean.
In Colombia I add a shot of Aguardiente or rum to an expresso, cup of Colombian colada coffee or a cafe Americano. Bring a flask with you to the Juan Valdez Coffee Shop.
Rum, Gin and Vodka Tonics – gin, vodka and tonic water are found in most local supermakets.
To make put ice in a glass, add a shot and a half of gin or vodka, top off with tonic water and stir. For a rum tonic add some lime juice.
Canelazo is a hot toddy made with agua panela (water and cane sugar), cinnamon, cloves, lime juice and Aguardiente. You’ll need a stove to heat up the agua panela.
Hervido – which is another toddy famous in mountain towns of southern Colombia (see photo above).
It’s made with a fruit juice like pineapple (pina) or passionfruit (maracuya) or berries (moras) with sugar and Aguardiente.
Alcoholic Drinks of Colombia
Colombian Beers: The most popular brands are Aguila, Poker, Club Colombia, Costena, Pilsen and Andina. Colombia is not famous for it’s beers but there are a number of craft breweries springing up around the country like the Bogota Beer Company, Cordilleras from Medellin and Happy Jaguar from Santa Marta.
Colombian Rum is a product of fermented and distilled sugar cane juice. Local rum is of a pretty high quality and Colombians prefer their rum on the rocks or neat. There are a number of rums in Colombia’s liquor stores and supermarket and different styles like anejos, viejos and reservas.
Colombia has a Spanish style rum. They are aged 3 years and 5 years – anejo, 8 and 10 years – extra Anejo, , 12 and 20 years Gran Reservas. Ron Viejo de Caldas or Ron Medellin Anejo are usually the top choices and readily available.
Aguardiente is a strong, alcoholic drink. Also called ‘guaro’, It is the national drink and found everywhere in Colombia. These days I rarely see people drink it but when they do, it is usually consumed in shots. If offered, don’t refuse a shot. Guaro is part of the Colombian culture and they are proud of it.
Made with alcohol, water, sugar and anise, Aguardiente, which means fire water, is an inexpensive white spirit with a distinct taste of anise or licorice and only has a 29% alcohol content.
The Italians make a similar spirit called ‘Sambuca’. The Greek version is called ‘Ouzo’. The most popular brands in Colombia are Aguardiente Antioqueno, Cristal and Nectar.
Wines – supermarkets usually have a decent collection of wines – everything from one-liter bag in the box wines on the low end, to mid-tier wines from Chile, Argentina, Spain and the USA. There are Riojas from Spain, Malbecs from Argentina and Cabernet Sauvignons from Chile, California and Washington State.
Just don’t expect wine in Colombia to be cheap. Due to heavy import taxes a bottle of wine costs approximately what it would cost you back in Europe or North America.
There are a few Colombian wineries in the departments of Boyaca, Santander and Valle de Cauca but their common wines are usually simple and sweet (dolce and amabile).
Producing wine in Colombia is difficult due to high humidity and a lack of clear seasons. But while the country’s production potential is limited by climatic conditions, Colombian wine consumers are slowly demanding more national wines. It’s just a matter of time until Colombian wineries find more micro-climates in the vast mountain ranges of Colombia and reach the next level of quality.