When Dan Ziegler and some college buddies traveled to Colombia about five years ago, he became a little obsessed with the ubiquitous anise-flavored liqueur known as aguardiente.
"Eighteen-year-olds in the club on the dance floor have it by the bottle, and then 90-year-old guys sitting on their porch in the Andes mountains are sipping on it," he says.
Ziegler, a D.C. resident who works in finance and real estate for Hilton Worldwide, is now selling Chacho, his own take on the South American cane sugar spirit. Rather than anise, however, Ziegler infuses his booze with jalapeño.
Ziegler doesn't have his own distillery yet, but it's one of his eventual goals. In the meantime, he imports neutral cane sugar alcohol from South America and a co-packing operation in Iowa infuses it according to his recipe. Ziegler does his own design and packaging and self-distributes the product.
Chacho launched in December and is currently available in about 10 liquor stores and 30 bars and restaurants (in D.C. only), including The Pub and The People, Alfie's, H Street Country Club, and Boundary Road. Retail prices range from around $25 to $29.
The 70-proof spirit is sweet on the front end, and although it obviously has some heat, Ziegler says it's not so overwhelming that you can't drink it neat or on the rocks with some lime juice. A number of bartenders have also been using it in margaritas, bloody marys, and other cocktails.
Going forward, Ziegler is interested in expanding his product line to include other infusions as well.
Chacho is named after a llama that Ziegler encountered on his first night in Bogotá while drinking aguardiente out of a water bottle. The llama's owner was letting little kids sit on the animal for pictures when Ziegler asked if he could jump on. "And so I'm riding this llama around the streets of downtown Bogotá drunk on aguardiente for my first time," he says.
The llama is now featured prominently on the bottle.
Photo via Chacho