A reader in Florida e-mailed me for help in locating guaro, a sugar cane-based liquor from Costa Rica.
"I saw a posting you made regarding ... guaro, originally from Costa Rica. After a trip there I have been trying to locate it. 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 more like a vodka than it does 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 the poster shown here 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 since them?
Results are mixed. For example, last year when I judged an international cane spirits competition in Tampa, FL, I was surprised to note that there wasn't a single example of guaro among all the rums and cachaças. 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, 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:
FOUR SEASONS GUARO SOUR
2 ounces guaro
2 ounces simple syrup or 2 teaspoons raw sugar
5 to 6 lime wedges
Sugar cane stick for garnish
Put guaro, sugar and lime wedges in a rocks glass. Muddle all the ingredients until you get lime juice. Add ice cubes. Yield: one drink.
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