Bottoms Up: Tropical drunk

March 4, 2010

Spring break is not typically a time for learning about other cultures. At least, it shouldn’t be. In two days, for instance, I will mid-air, bound for gorgeous Costa Rica. If all goes to plan, I will spend a week lazing in the shade of a palm tree on an ivory beach. As great as my appreciation for the rich history of Latin America is, let’s be honest—I’m not headed south for cultural edification.

This isn’t to say that you should avoid all museums like the plague (although I certainly will be) or shy away from attempting to learn a few words of your destination’s native tongue. But, spring break is for relaxing, not learning. Save it for your regional studies classes, kids.

Before I start hearing cries of “Philistine!” (although, to be fair, “tan, relaxed Philistine!” would be more accurate), let me assure you that there is one facet of Costa Rican culture that I fully intend to take advantage of—their alcohol.

That really means two things: Costa Rican beer and the national Costa Rican spirit called guaro. (Well, maybe three. With Costa Rica being located on the Caribbean, there might be a little rum consumed too.)

To be sure, their beer, Imperial, is nothing special. Don’t expect the languid pale lager to challenge your palette like a boisterous India Pale Ale or gleefully knock you down like a strong-willed, alcoholic craft ale.

And guaro, a clear alcohol made from sugar cane, can charitably be called vodka’s dim-witted but affable kid brother. Take the flavorless Russian spirit, make it a bit sweeter and lighten up its alcoholic kick and you’ve got the national alcohol of Costa Rica.

I normally expect my booze to have a bit of an attitude. Some pizzaz. But as I while away listening to the smooth swooshing of Caribbean waves on the sand, you can bet I’ll be nursing a smooth guaro on the rocks, condensation dripping down the glass. That, or a chilled Imperial, keeping me company as my skin assumes a mellow brown.

Really, what better way to complement my lazy week on the beach than two complaisant drinks that want nothing more than to lay there with me as the sun sets? There’s a reason why these are the national beverages of the land of “Pura Vida.”

And this phenomenon isn’t limited to Costa Rica, either. Drinking the native alcohol of your spring break destination is the easiest way to add local flavor to your week away from dreary D.C. Mexico-bound Hoyas can sample a variety of real Mexican tequilas, whose flavors span an impressive range (Jose Cuervo doesn’t count).  Those headed to England or Ireland should swig some Guinness or, if that’s a bit too rich, try some snakebite, a sweet concoction of beer, hard cider, and blackcurrant cordial.

Wherever you’re headed, eschew the Bud Light during this upcoming week. Swig the native beer and down shots of the national liquor and you’ll begin to feel like you’re home.

Oh, and did I mention I’m going to Costa Rica?

Sam can’t find the Fountain of Youth, but he’ll let you into his lost city of gold at ssweeney@georgetownvoice.com


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