"A favorite way of drinking Agwa is with an energy drink," says Brad Henrich, owner of both TT Roadhouse and Shady's. "It's sort of an energy liquor."

Many people describe Agwa's impact as more of a high than a drunk. And Naegeli is quick to point out at that it's a perfectly legal — albeit perfectly psychological — high.

"Once you do drink it and have a couple shots of it, you'll feel a different feeling. Rather than actually getting drunk, you'll get a little buzz, like a drug high, but it's perfectly legal," he says. "The alkaloids that would normally test positive for drugs have been removed."

"It's great on the rocks," says Homme co-owner Jeremy Johnson, "as long as you're ready to party."


Agwa is just the latest spirit in a centuries-old tradition of coca-based drinks. Coca leaves have been used in drink recipes for hundreds of years by the Andean peoples of South America, and the leaves continue to be a vibrant part of the culture. In Bolivia, a drink called mate de coca is almost as popular as tea and coffee. In Colombia, the Nasa Indians make and sell a brew called Coca-Sek, a carbonated energy drink containing syrup from boiled coca leaves.

And North American soft drink giant Coca-Cola has used coca leaves in its mysterious recipe since 1885, when Georgia entrepreneur John Stith Pemberton concocted the first recipe for Pemberton's French Wine Coca and changed the recipe to a non-alcoholic brew after Prohibition the following year. Coca-Cola's super-secret formula has changed over the years, but Pemberton's original concoction contained five ounces of coca leaf per gallon of syrup. (Since 1904, Coca-Cola has used leaves from which the cocaine alkaloids have been removed).

Importation of coca leaves into the United States is illegal, but one chemical company — the Stepan Company of Maywood, New Jersey — has the only commercial license from the Drug Enforcement Agency to import coca leaves into the U.S. The Stepan Company imports and processes the leaves for two companies: Mallinckdrodt, a pharmaceutical company, and Coca-Cola. The cocaine alkaloids are removed to provide Coca-Cola with a non-narcotic extract for flavoring, and the narcotic ingredient is sold to Mallinckdrodt for medicinal purposes.

As with Coca-Cola, the makers of Agwa de Bolivia Coca Leaf Liqueur — the Bapco International Company of Dublin, Ireland — use an extract of "spent" leaves left over from a maceration and distillation process that removes the cocaine alkaloids. Bapco distills coca leaves shipped from Bolivia to Amsterdam, where Agwa de Bolivia is manufactured from a benign coca extract. Importation of the finished product into the United States is legal, although the U.S. version of the drink contains 32 milligrams of coca leaf extract, as opposed to the 40 milligrams of extract found in the European version.

Even though Agwa's not illegal, the hype's enough to get you high. And if that doesn't do it, the massive amounts of guarana — a plant whose seeds contain five times the amount of caffeine of a coffee bean — will. Even tempered by other alcohols in mixed drinks, Agwa's dynamite dosage of herbal caffeine could make a catatonic twitch.

Agwa de Bolivia Coca Leaf Liqueur is allegedly made from a recipe used by the famed Medici family of Florence, Italy. Babco CEO Mark Wilson (also the man behind the Mickey Finns Schnapps brand) tells this story: The Agwa recipe is derived from that of Jean Buton, who was a primary business associate of Napoleon Bonaparte. Buton married the Countess Sassoli — whom Wilson says was "the last in line of the Medici" — and upon Napoleon's demise, Buton fled France and began producing coca leaf liquor in Bologna, Italy, in 1820. The drink was hugely popular in Europe but disappeared when cocaine was banned.

"We took inspiration from their work and re-designed the coca leaf liquid to accommodate current laws by ensuring that the banned cocaine alkaloid was not present," Wilson says. "However, the coca leaf has many more mysteries and indeed benefits than the abused cocaine."


Agwa de Bolivia found its way through Europe and into Canada by 2004 but was available only sporadically in places throughout the U.S. because of problems with flaky distributors. Brad Henrich has been a fan of Agwa for years and says TT Roadhouse started serving it when it became available in 2004.

"It was a hit over [at TT Roadhouse] as a shot and in mixed drinks," he says. "We're big fans of it."

Henrich's happy to see the recent distribution boost and has started offering Agwa drinks at Shady's, too. With Young's Market in Orange County, California, now serving as a national distributor, Agwa de Bolivia has been widely available in Phoenix for at least a year, with buzz building in bars during the past couple of months.

People want to know whether the drink will make them feel like they're on cocaine, or whether it's as strong as absinthe or Jägermeister. The effects of the liqueur vary for each drinker, but one thing's fairly certain: It's a potent brew. "The herbal liqueur we developed is different from any normal alcohol experience," Babco CEO Wilson says. "But responsibly, we suggest never to drink more than three."

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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.

 

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