Guaro leads the list of traditional alcoholic drinks in Costa Rica. But because it was once the province of the poor drinker, it has a reputation of being the “rot gut” of this country. Though that is changing, it still remains so in some ways and honestly the quality can be a bit spotty if not chosen well. Which explains why so many consider it a crude spirit and most tourists pass the stuff right by. But that’s why they are tourists and we are travelers…
When I came here I knew I was going to seek out guaro. I have met people who have come home from Costa Rica raving about the stuff. But before you run out to the liqueur store you should know that guaro is also generic term for rum, so there is some confusion between actual guaro and rum. Like rum guaro is distilled from pressed sugar cane. The taste and quality varies in different parts of Latin America, but in Costa Rica the Cacique label is making a very refined guaro, distilled and filtered using only quality ingredients.
To avoid having a bad experience with 70-proof guaro, it’s important to know something about it. It is potent enough, sure. It is also clear liquid with a very mild flavor, it most reminds me of vodka. Still, despite its mild flavor you do not drink it straight like tequila.
In Costa Rica guaro-based mixed drinks usually consist of pouring a shot or two into a glass with ice and pouring Fresca over it. Which has its appeal I have to admit. It also mixes nicely with other tangy citrusy soft drinks and fruit juices. This is the Tico way to enjoy this drink.
But I decided to make my first experience of it as a substitute for vodka in a slightly tropical version of a Bloody Mary.
- 36 ounces tomato juice
- 1 stalk celery with leaves, minced
- 2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
- 1 teaspoon grated ginger
- 1 lime, juice only
- 1/2 teaspoon Lizano sauce (substitue Worcestershire sauce)
- 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 12 dashes hot sauce
- 1 1/2 cups guaro
- stalks of celery as garnish, as needed
- Cilantro sprigs as garnish, to taste
- lime wedges as garnish, optional
In a blender add 1/4 of the tomato juice, minced celery, horseradish, ginger, lime juice, Lizano sauce, celery salt, sea salt, and hot sauce. Blend to puree well. Then pour the contents of the blender into a large pitcher. Add the remaining tomato juice and guaro. Chill at least one hour. Serve in tall glasses over ice with a stick of celery sticks, cilantro sprigs, and lime wedges to taste.
If I have you intrigued about guaro, I’ll let you in on a secret. You are not the only one. The Four Seasons recently embraced guaro by adding a drink made with it to its cocktail lists. They call it the Guaro Sour, and here’s my version.
Put guaro, sugar and lime wedges in a rocks glass. Muddle all the ingredients until the juice is extracted and the rinds are bruised. Leave it all in the glass and add ice cubes. Top with a splash of club soda. Serve with a straw.
SERIOUS FUN FOOD