Arts & Entertainment

Down on Drinks: Costa Rican Treat Elusive

A reader e-mailed me for help in locating guaro, a sugar cane-based liquor from Costa Rica.

"I saw a posting you made regarding … guaro. After trying it in Costa Rica, I have been trying to locate it here. I live in Florida, but travel to California frequently. Please let me know if there is anywhere I can purchase guaro. Thank you."

Guaro is an elusive liquor to purchase in the States. A year ago, I introduced my readers to S Guaro, a 70-proof liquor that was the first American branding for the pure cane sugar liquor that usually sells for under $20 for a 750ml bottle.

Like vodka in Poland and Russia and tequila in Mexico, the clear, odorless spirit once was the province of the poor drinker. However, fancier bottling and additional filtering have raised both its image and its popularity among tourists.

Guaro tastes like a vodka more than anything else, and its distributors recommend it as part of a mixed drink rather than straight.

It began in the U.S. as essentially a California drink, with a marketing campaign by distributor S Spirits of Malibu that began by creating a word-of-mouth buzz from serving guaro at parties orbiting the Golden Globes, Grammy and Academy Awards shows. The thought was that such a campaign worked a year earlier for Hpnotiq, a pale-blue French concoction of cognac, vodka and fruit juices.

"We're trying that grass-roots thing, too, before we try to go nationwide," Shari F. Levanthal, marketing director for S Spirits, told me at the time.

The campaign was aimed at a hip, club-hopping market. The images of the ads were to be in that vein, such as an edgy poster by graphic artist Jerrel Conner, the first commissioned by S Guaro.

So, how has S Guaro, or any other type of guaro such as the 60-proof Cacique, fared here since them?

Results are mixed. For example, last year when I judged an international cane spirits competition in Tampa, Fla., I was surprised to note that there wasn't a single example of guaro among all the rums and cachacas. On the other end of the spectrum, the Four Seasons hotel chain recently embraced guaro by adding a drink made with it to its cocktail lists — the guaro sour.

Richard Lovrich, art director of the historic Proctor's Theater complex in Schenectady, N.Y., is a friend and former colleague who visited Costa Rica and brought me a bottle of the liquor, a product he quickly came to enjoy with regularity during several weeks cavorting in Central America.

"I like the fact it blends so well with fruit juices, or just a little ice and lime," Lovrich said, "and, the fact that it's only 70 proof makes it much easier to take. It's almost as common as Coke or Pepsi in Costa Rica."

If you're fortunate enough to find guaro, here's the recipe for the Four Seasons cocktail: Put two ounces each of guaro and simple syrup (equal parts water and sugar) with a half-dozen lime wedges in a glass. Muddle all the ingredients until you get a thick lime juice. Add ice cubes and garnish with a sugar stick.

An Unlikely Whisky: Think whiskey, or whisky, and you're likely to be thinking Scotland, U.S., Ireland or Canada. But Alsace?

Uberach Alsace Whisky is produced by Distillerie Bertrand in the village of Uberach, located in the French province west of the Rhine River. It was launched in France earlier this year and its maker already is looking to market abroad. Attention from American buyers attending Vinexpo in Bordeaux helped raise such hopes.

The spirit is aged at least three years in barrels that once held Banyuls fortified wine. It then is sold as two different products: a single malt, blended from a range of casks, and the Single Cask, the product of one selected barrel.


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