Waiter crosses the street to get to the other side…..
Feb. 17, 2011—-
CALI, Colombia—-I have two nightlife memories of Cali, 2011. So far.
One involves aguardiente as it always does in Colombia.
The other is more unique.
I am on the 11th floor of the Hotel Obelisco in the El Penon hotel district of Cali. I have a balcony that looks over the Cali River and the busy Colombia avenue that coils through the dense neighborhood.
The boulevard’s speeding motorcycles and mopeds remind me of Naples, Italy and the cab drivers are just as reckless as they are in Chicago.
Every night around 5 p.m. the hotel staff sets up an outdoor café along the riverfront. By sunset the café is filled with people including the three Greek guys who keep encouraging me to hang out with them in pursuit of women—even though I don’t wear skin tight shirts unbuttoned to my naval.
The waiters run back and forth between the hotel and the riverfront café:
Across the boulevard, with trays in one hand.
It’s like an extreme sport you see at three in the morning on ESPN 2.
I can sit on my balcony with a bottle of Poker beer (that’s the proletarian beer here as opposed to the upscale Club Colombian) and pretend I’m playing Pac Man.
The other night I ate at the acclaimed Platillos Voladores (Flying Saucer). Chef Vicky Acosta is on to something. She is a young woman who has traveled to China, Thailand, Indonesia, Argentia, Chile, lived in London and hopscotched across Europe.
She fuses the influences of her travels with Colombian Pacific Coast cuisne, which generally features shrimp, coconut and guava chicken. The tropical egg rolls were literally out of this world.
Vicky got wind I was in the restaurant. Well, I was the only gringo on a busy Tuesday night. She brought over her friend Luisa Martinez and they began telling me about a drink Vicky invented.
It features aguardeinte—29 per cent alcohol. Made with fermented and distilled sugar cane (grown year round in Colombia) it is the country’s national drink.
It has been messing people up for a long time.
Vicky and Luisa do not do shots of aguardeinte but they encouraged me to have a “Vicky Wicky” drink. I am here to share the recipe with you:
1. Apply salt in the border of a mid-sized glass, add ice.
2. Add two shots of aguardeinete. “”NOT SUGAR FREE!” the women declared in unison.
3. Add ½ shot of lemon juice.
4. Fill the rest with tonic water.
5. After three drinks go salsa dancing. Even a square dancer like me.
The drink was sort of a Colombian Margarita.
I need to share the “Vicky Wicky” with someone. Maybe I’ll pass the tip along to Jimmy Buffett who has never performed in Cali.
I can hear a ballad like “Don’t Cry for Me Aguardiente.”
Luisa (left) and Vicky; love the saucer-mirror decor..
…which is how things look after a few “Vicky Wickys.”
Luisa said they sell plastic bottles of aguardiente around Cali. She encouraged me to buy one and bring it back to the states to share with my bartender friends. Maybe I will.
It would be a nice surprise for Rahm Emanuel next time I see him at the Matchbox in Chicago.