A Taste of the Drinks of Costa Rica

When generally talking about the foods and drinks of Central America, I often find that there’s a misnomer. While you’ll no doubt find tacos, margaritas, and chips and salsa, this isn’t the traditional food and drinks of Central American countries like Costa Rica. While many of the best Mexican foods can be found in other countries, the same can’t be said for Central America cuisine. Nonetheless, that’s what makes it so unique – the fact that you can get it in Central America countries, but rarely elsewhere. In my never-ending quest to eat and drink my way around the world, today I spotlight the drinks (Both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) of Costa Rica.

1. Guaro. “WHAT is that?” That’s likely your response not only while reading this, but also after taking a swig of guaro. But did you know that guaro is the official liquor of Costa Rica? While the term is generally translated as “liquor”, in Costa Rica it refers to the clear sugar cane liquor that is manufactured by Cacique Guaro. But sweet as it may be, it’s more like a kick in the mouth of sweetness, as it packs a punch. A shot of guaro is typically served with a large slice of lime. However, it can also be served as a cocktail, typically as a Cacique Guaro Sour, which includes a couple ounces of lime juice with a couple shots of guaro. For me, it was often my last drink of the night, though typically unplanned, as it usually consisted of me asking for my bill and the bartender or Ticos I was talking with urging me to stay around for one last drink.

2. Ron Centenario. Most people typically think Caribbean islands when they think about rum. And while Costa Rica isn’t an island, the eastern side of the country touches the Caribbean Sea. As you may imagine then, you’ll find a lot of rum in Costa Rica. While you’ll find a wide range of rums in Costa Rica bars, many of them are manufactured elsewhere, except for Ron Centenario. An older bottle of Ron Centenario, such as 9-year and above, you may just have by itself. However, you won’t find this in most bars and can simply mix it with your favorite juice or soda.

3. Flor de Caña. While Flor de Caña isn’t actually manufactured in Costa Rica, I had to mention it since it’s what turned me on to Central American rum. In reality, I’m not even a big liquor drinker. I’ll have a margarita at the local tacqueria and have developed a taste for Firefly sweet tea vodka, but by in large, have never felt a connection to liquor. That is, until I had a drink of Flor de Caña. Manufactured in Nicaragua, it became my drink of choice in Costa Rica, especially at happy hour when it was just $3 a glass. I typically alternated between a rum and orange juice and rum and coke. I’ve even found it in many bars in the San Francisco Bay Area and order it every time I see it. You could buy bottles of it for $7 at the Costa Rica/Nicaragua border when I was there last winter.

4. Pilsners. This refers to the numerous pilsner beers you’ll find in just about every bar in Costa Rica. While Imperial is the most widely recognized pilsner in Costa Rica, other notable beers that can be found in most bars include Bavaria and Pilsen. While I typically drank Imperial, I didn’t notice a stark difference between the three main beers. Toña is another recognizable beer since it’s manufactured in Nicaragua. This is a good break from Costa Rica’s bottled beers, since Toña is often found in cans. That and it’s incredibly cheap, as the first time I bought a can of Toña it was only $1.

5. Refrescos. I had to include at least one Costa Rica beverage that wasn’t alcoholic. Refrescos are just as they sound, refreshing drinks for the warm days in Costa Rica. A refresco is little more than fresh fruit mixed with water or milk. Some of the more common fruits include mangos, strawberries, pineapple, papaya, and blackberries. I would sometimes see people wheeling carts up and down the beaches selling these. It’s Costa Rica’s version of a fruit smoothie. If you’re concerned about where the water may come from, then ask for a milk refresco.

What drinks has made the most impression on you from your travels?

6 Comments on “A Taste of the Drinks of Costa Rica

  1. Chile has some interesting drinks too – one that isn’t at all popular anymore except with little old ladies but still appears on menus is the vaina, a mixture of chocolate liquer, sherry, cognac, sugar and egg yolk. I’ll stick with Flor de Caña, thanks!

    • I’ve really come to like the drinks of South America. I’ve become quite the Pisco guy myself, but thankful that it’s just a 5-block walk to grab a bottle of Flor de Caña!

  2. A Refresco with a little Flor de Caña was my go-to drink while in Costa Rica….especially when the temperature creeps up.

    I always have strong associations with flavors to my travels: like Pisco in Peru and Fernet con Coca in Argentina. Eating and drinking new things is one of my favorite parts of being on the road! And those flavors always bring back memories :)

    • Love it! I’m always trying to turn friends on to Flor de Cana. Funny that you mention Fernet, since it’s considered the drink of San Francisco. Everybody drinks it here!

  3. Just returned from a vacation at Playa del Coco and the drink that I fell in love with was ChiliGuaro. It is a slat-rimmed shot made with Guaro, lime juice and Tabasco. It is really good but I didn’t ask what the proportions are. Does anyone know for sure or will I just keep trying ’til I get it right?

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