Agwa, a new liqueur made from coca leaves, is giving Valley barflies a boost

It's a muggy Sunday night in mid-June, and Robyn Milton is celebrating her 30th birthday (for the eighth time) with a party in the backyard of a pal's north Phoenix home. She's about to liven up the party for her guests.

"Hey, my friend brought this stuff," she says. "And I've been dying to try it. It's supposed to get you high. Everybody needs to do some with me."

The "stuff" is divvied up and everybody does some. Ten minutes later, Robyn and her guests are pacing the backyard, rubbing their faces, talking over each other in multiple conversations, trying to push each other into the pool, and insisting, "We should do some more."

There's more where that came from, for sure. The guy who's the biggest seller of the stuff in the state even offered to give me a mirror and a couple of extra vials with it.

But this isn't cocaine. It's the latest trend in edgy European liqueurs, a green brew called Agwa de Bolivia Coca Leaf Liqueur.

Since making its way to bars and liquor stores across the Valley this spring, Agwa de Bolivia has built a reputation as a mystery liquor that's highly intoxicating, yet strangely energizing, too. It's not the tastiest thing to drink straight, but seems to mix well with almost anything. It's being hailed as "the new absinthe" by some, "the new Jägermeister" by others, and being celebrated as everything from an alleged booster of sexual prowess to a substitute for illegal drugs.

Jeremy Johnson, co-owner of Homme in central Phoenix, says Agwa's been selling so well at his club that he ran out a couple of weekends ago and had to increase his order. The liqueur has its appeal as a novelty drink among the younger crowd, but also holds a nostalgic kick for older folks whose drug-doing days are over.

Throw in the idea that Agwa can increase sexual potency (a claim made by numerous college guys on Internet forums), and you've got the perfect party drink for yuppies, Yippies, hippies, and pretty much everyone in between.

Agwa's hook is the "Agwa buzz," a heady rush followed by a period of sustained, mildly euphoric energy — a similar feeling to that induced by cocaine.

"It does get you high," says Rich Naegeli, the broker/distributor for Agwa in Arizona and New Mexico. "If you drink enough of it, it will actually get you high."

Whether or not Agwa has the properties to really get you high doesn't matter, at least not at Robyn Milton's birthday party.

"I feel pretty damn good!" Robyn's husband, Chuckie, says, as his guests scour the kitchen cabinets for mixer liquors, perhaps something melon-flavored. "I feel like I could party all night!"


Agwa de Bolivia Coca Leaf Liqueur looks like watered-down NyQuil cough syrup, and smells about the same. I knocked back a double shot of it on a Tuesday night a few weeks back, after hearing about the drink and rushing out to buy a bottle. I bit into a lime, then did the shot. There was a tingling in the back of my throat, similar to a tequila burn, followed by a slightly minty, fruity aftertaste. Even though it was pungent and harsh, I did two more double shots of the drink and called it a night. Agwa de Bolivia is 60-proof alcohol, so I should have been slumbering shortly after downing a quarter of a bottle.

But by 4 a.m., it was clear that I wasn't going to fall asleep anytime soon. My head was buzzing, and I was absolutely wired awake. I decided to mow the lawn after alphabetizing my vinyl record collection.

Could it be true that Agwa had me flickering on its reputed "cocaine buzz"? After all, the drink is made from the leaves of the coca plant, the same plant that produces cocaine. I'd heard about the drink from a handful of barfly and bon vivant friends, and the general consensus among them was that they weren't sure if Agwa de Bolivia made them feel "high" but that it most definitely made them feel "drunk," "funny," and "different."

I'd also heard that Agwa was a more potent herbal liqueur than Jägermeister, but a comparative review on liquorsnob.com declared, "[Agwa] offers a crazy buzz, a funky flavor, and a good marketing campaign. In our opinion, it's an interesting and unique liqueur, but it doesn't have what it takes to become the true classic Jägermeister is."

Curious about the "crazy buzz" and "funky flavor," I wanted to try it, too, but it was still relatively new to my friends and they only knew of one bar and one liquor store that was selling it. Turns out, Agwa's available at more than 48 locations around the Valley, including clubs like TT Roadhouse in Scottsdale, Shady's in Phoenix, and Tavern on Mill in Tempe, and at all BevMo!, Tops, and AJ's Fine Foods locations.

That's perfectly legal because there's no cocaine in Agwa de Bolivia Coca Leaf Liqueur.

True, the drink is made from the leaves of the coca plant, the same plant from which cocaine is derived after a long process involving solvents and other chemicals, but the kick's been taken out of the coca, so to speak, by the time it hits the Agwa recipe, which also includes ginseng, green tea, and a natural source of caffeine called guarana. But that hasn't stopped Agwa's marketing gurus from playing up the coke jokes — nor has it curbed consumer curiosity about the drink's alleged effects.

1
 
2
 
3
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
14 comments
Rmshepherd
Rmshepherd

Tryed it with my wife last weekend and omg liked it. I'm a j├Ąger and absinthe kinda guy and after years of honing my drinking skills know the exact feel-good level Of both. Enter the agwa, however, new ball game. Better buzz oh yeah

One4u2nv32
One4u2nv32

Ive had agwa a few different times and absolutely love it. I never have a hangover the next day and it isn't that bad to just take a straight shot of. I've found it goes good with Lime Jello and Tropical fusion jello.

tommypayne
tommypayne

I had loads of this on Saturday and im still feeling terrible today (Monday). Not recommended for people with stomach acid issues.

Bbagkdfkj
Bbagkdfkj

OMG what the heck. This is not healthy

John
John

This article is really poorly researched. Nowhere did they mention that Agwa contains a really strong dose of Caffeine and Guarana. This is on the front page of their website if you cared to look.

If you drink four shot of it you might as well have downed for expresso shots. Stayed up till 4 am? I would be if I have that much coffee at night.

And cocaines effect doesn't last long in the body, when you ingest by mouth it will last 30 minutes, maybe an hour tops. So no sleepless nights from that either. It's not the coca in Agwa that is getting people high, it's the caffeine.

Micele
Micele

Coca liquor with coca leaves without cocaine... aaarrgggg!!!-sorry-

rodat6
rodat6

I have been around since 1942 and lead a fairly active life. Those whose drug of choice is alcohol basically do not hold up well, they usually die off much faster than those who do not drink alcohol. For one our blood vessels are not fuel line rated and tend to dry out and harden and another the favorite food of alcohol is liver without the onion, human liver to be exact.

Strangely enough, Alcohol is advertised over television, radio, billboards and other media to us and our children. Alcohol is addictive, very addictive. Millions are spent trying to entice more people to become hooked.

Pot is not advertised and neither is it addicting, it is classed as a felony even after the majority of voters approved it for medical reasons two years in a row and both times our vote was ignored. What word comes to your mind to describe this non action?

If you want the dark syrup from the leaf that used to contain the cocaine alkaloid, drink Coca-Cola, same difference but without the damaging alcohol. Your body will thank you and you will live a better, more aware life.

Rodat6

kidcapri23
kidcapri23

Just tried this. 41 bucks for a bottle at Topps. I'm not a big drinker at all. I had 3 shots on an empty stomach after working about 10 hours. It brought me up a bit, but really nothing too crazy. The experience was not at all like the article described, maybe those folks were into meth or simply dehydrated.

Save your cash, folks. The fact that I and others paid good money for this green shit goes to show you how far this stupid economy has yet to fall.

neutrino666
neutrino666

this stuff is weak, simply a lighter sweeter jagermeister for fags and tards who 'think' they are getting *high* but are too afraid to ever have the real thing.

the story about running around and acting funny reminds me of 13 year olds getting 'buzzed' from smoking cigarettes.

serioulsy... i have drank almost an entire .750l (fifth) and it took at least 6 shots to say I felt anything beyond the normal buzz after the first shot. and it really just puts me to sleep, and give me headache if I drink any other alcohol.

but then again... I smoke and drink alot...

silver pickle
silver pickle

i want to hurt myself. im thinking of cutting myself with a razor and then masterbating until i die.

Gary Graves
Gary Graves

Marcy -- sounds like you need a few shots of Agwa.

Great story! Kudos for breaking the news on this tasty booze.

marcy85022
marcy85022

BTW, it took them all of 7 months from the date of their home purchase till they got their notice of foreclosure. And that isn't all, in 2005 they managed to get slapped with a $2,500 judgement.

Once a deadbeat, always a deadbeat.

Marcy85022
Marcy85022

Maybe if Robyn and Chuckie spent less time partying and getting high they wouldn't have stiffed their home lender in 2000 and been foreclosed on.

 
Loading...