Ten years ago, the party drink choices in Costa Rica used to be pretty limited: Imperial, Pilsen, or a guaro sour? Sure, back then none of it cost more than $3, but the variety was severely lacking and the beer was basically water. In the past few years, though, Costa Rican has undergone an alcohol revolution of sorts, with artisanal breweries springing up all over the country. Craft beer festivals have also become popular, and as beer producers gain permits and start distributing, bars in the Central Valley and beach towns up and down the coasts are able to stock the new beers.
Similarly, mixologists have started getting more creative with the cocktails, blending the delicious fruits and vegetables of the tropics (think guanabana, passion fruit, and hot chilies) with guaro, a strong sugarcane alcohol that tastes like nothing. Flor de Caña, a Nicaraguan rum that goes down like butter, is also very popular. And although Ticos traditionally don’t like their food or drinks “picante” (hot), it’s no longer unusual to find a spicy jalapeño margarita on the menu.
Chiliguaro began as a fringe shot order in Playas del Coco on the northwestern coast about two years ago. But the hot sauce, lime juice, guaro and salt traigo quickly caught on and soon bars in the capital were mixing pitchers of the stuff. The liquor is well disguised and the shot tastes spicy and delicious, even though it gives you dragon breath.
This Scottish Ale invented by Costa Rica Craft Brewing Co. is named after a killer rodeo bull, and unsurprisingly, it pairs very well with steak. Although the beer isn’t yet distributed in bottles, you can order your own keg from the company’s headquarters near Cartago. I did this once for a party at my apartment, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Yes, the guaro sour is the national drink. But it doesn’t compare to the welcome drink at Kura Design Villas, dubbed the jaguar colada. This delicious guaro cocktail comes with maracuyá (passion fruit) and coconut crème, and you can’t taste even a hint of alcohol. Jaguars themselves are probably less dangerous.
The weird name means “panty remover” and doesn’t lie. From Escazú brewery Treintaycinco tastes like hibiscus and lands like moonshine, and it’s available in romantic hotels and dive bars around the country. Steifel Pub is a great place to try it out, even though it’ll probably mean you’re going home with a shaggy-haired Tico who worships Metallica.
Flor de Caña cocktails
Ok, technically Flor is Nicaraguan. But it beats every rum made in Costa Rica and is widely available here, so, just drink it. My personal favorite is the dark rum aged 7 years, poured over a glass of ice and finished off with a splash of coke. But it’s also damn good with ginger ale or coconut milk.