Agua de Sapo is a traditional Costa Rican drink made from tapa de dulce (unrefined sugar), limes and ginger that originated in the Limón province on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast, an area that takes on a much more Afro-Caribbean feel than it’s more Latin flavored Pacific side. According to Monte Azul, a lovely hotel on a private mountain reserve near Chirripó National Park, the region’s cultural roots are apparent in the language which is a Patois based on Jamaican English, with French, Spanish and Bri Bri (the principal indigenous people of the area) influences.
“Rum is the history of America in a glass,” says author Wayne Curtis, in the introduction of his excellent book, And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World In Ten Cocktails. “It came out of the confusion of a freshly settled land, and its production became one of the dominant industries of the new economy,” writes Curtis. Through ten cocktails, Curtis explains not just the evolution of the spirit, but the development of the entire New World.
I wake up before dawn and walk out on the beach. The leatherback turtles are already gone for the season, but there are still eggshells all over the beach. There’s a man to my right holding a birdcage with a small songbird inside. The sun begins to rise. Why did he bring the bird to the beach. It was odd I thought to myself. Later I learned that he would be bird racing later that morning, a southern Caribbean sport that matches songbirds in sing offs with other songbirds at a meeting point in a nearby village.
Demerara. That word alone is infectious. It’s derived from the Arawak language, meaning “river of the letter wood.” It sounds exotic. It is exotic. Demerara is a place, among other things related to that place. It’s a region of Guyana founded by the Dutch. There’s a river, also called Demerara. There are fields of sugarcane lined with canals where herons and egrets wade. The air is sweet smelling. It smells of forests. And the Caribbean, which is not far away.