Swill: We Drank a Bottle of Coca Leaf Liqueur, For Science


Swill is our bi-monthly column dedicated to liquor, wine, beer, and every other delicious dram that falls under the broader umbrella of booze. But it’s more than just tasting notes scribbled on a cocktail napkin — Swill is about getting outside of your comfort zone, trying new things, and exploring the big, wide world of libations. One week you might catch us halfway through a bottle of single-malt scotch, and the week after that we might be buzzing on some Ugandan moonshine made from bananas. This column is just one big boozy adventure, so grab yourself a glass and join us for another round.

The world has no shortage of exotic liquors that supposedly have secondary effects. Absinthe can supposedly make you hallucinate, damiana liqueur is an aphrodisiac, and according to that country song, large quantities of tequila can apparently make your clothes fall off.

Well the other weekend, I happened across yet another one of these strange spirits — but this one was different. Instead of making you see little green fairies or suddenly decide that going nude sounds like a great idea, this stuff will allegedly give you an energy boost.

Agwa De Bolivia, as it’s called, is a new-ish herbal liqueur made with a blend of 37 different botanicals — the most noteworthy of which just so happens to be the coca leaf.

Coca leaves, as you may or may not be aware, are what the drug cocaine is derived from. Technically they’re just one small part of the Agwa recipe, but in theory they should be able to give you a bit of a pick-up — if you drink enough, that is.

So what’d I do? I drowned a whole 5th, of course! Here’s how it went down.

First of all, it’s worth mentioning that this is a delicious drink. A little strange, for sure — but definitely pretty tasty. After the first shot, it was immediately clear that coca leaf is just one piece of the puzzle.

There’s a lot going on here: the ingredients listed on the bottle include Chinese green tea, African mint, Amazon guarana, ginseng, lavender, cucumber, and something called Argentinian black mountain tea — and you can taste a lot of them. The resulting brew is a peppery, herbaceous liquor with a dry (and slightly minty) finish.

After imbibing about two thirds of a bottle, I started to feel a bit more pep in my step. Maybe I was just drunk and succumbing to the placebo effect, but there was definitely a small buzz of energy pulsing through my body. Its impossible to tell if it was from the coca leaf, or just the guarana and caffeine, but I did feel a noticeable change. As far as i can tell, it works just as advertised.

I can’t really remember what happened after I finished the rest of the bottle, but I do know that the overall experience was a good one. Agwa De Bolivia is something you should definitely try out. Keep an eye out for it at the liquor store.