History of Aguardiente in Colombia

Aguardiente: The Drink that Shaped a Nation

History of Aguardiente

The history of aguardiente in Colombia traces back to the15th century during Christopher Columbus’ second voyage. On his ship he brought the sugar cane that would be cultivated throughout the territory, marking the inception of aguardiente production.

Initially, the liquor was primarily consumed by Spanish colonizers but gradually gained popularity among indigenous groups, who even began their own clandestine production.

A century later, mixed aguardiente surpassed the traditional indigenous chicha in consumption. The use of sugar cane distillates varied across the New World. In Brazil, cachaça was produced, while rum was favored in the Caribbean. As for Andean countries like Colombia, they opted to infuse it with star anise, a practice inherited from the Arabs through the Spanish.

The history of aguardiente became a national tradition.

Today, the aguardiente or guaro, as it is popularly known, is part of Colombian identity. A significant portion of the country’s population comes from the countryside or has agricultural roots. It is precisely in rural areas where aguardiente is consumed very frequently. Over time, aguardiente has become a drink cherished throughout all regions of Colombia, becoming the great pride of the country.

Guaro is believed to strengthen bonds of friendship and family ties.

It is very common to consume it at family or friends gatherings because it is known to “make chatting more enjoyable.”

Aguardiente is to Colombia what beer is to Germany, tequila to Mexico, sake to Japan, pisco to Peru, or wine to France: a symbol of national identity. Throughout history, alcoholic beverages have been intertwined with human culture, with each country developing its own unique consumption traditions

Some say that aguapanela and aguardiente have left a mark on Colombian palates; their aroma has been ingrained since childhood and an integral part of the country’s culture. Many fondly recall adults sharing glasses of aguardiente during evening gatherings, a nostalgic image deeply rooted in the memory of many Colombians

In short, aguardiente or guaro is Colombia’s national drink, though it may not be widely recognized outside the country yet. When abroad, it often becomes one of the first cultural connections Colombians miss, especially when seeking to share something authentically Colombian with foreigners or bond with a compatriot. 

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