Cacique is Costa Rica’s original guaro, a distilled liquor made from sugar cane, now popular all over Latin America, but first created in Costa Rica. The Fábrica Nacional de Licores or "FANAL," started producing Cacique Guaro in 1853, and for the past 150 years, it has been the most popular distilled spirit in the country; appropriately, the word Cacique means "leader of the tribe" in most indigenous societies.
Cacique Bottles — Photo courtesy of Sophia LaMonica
Cacique Guaro is a hard liquor made from sugar cane, it’s a dash sweet and surprisingly smooth going down. Similar to the aguardiente of Columbia and many other Latin American countries, Cacique Guaro is crystal clear, and very closely resembles agua, but the taste is distinct and unique; a byproduct of Costa Rica’s rich volcanic soil that is ideal for the cultivation of sugar cane. The process of making Cacique Guaro begins with the raw material called pre-processed alcohol, which FANAL gets mainly from mills in the western region of Guanacaste.
The original national liquor factory building, La Antigua FANAL, still occupies a full city block in the city of San Jose and is now the Centro Nacional de Arte y Cultura, emcompassing several performing-arts centers and the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design. The new FANAL distillery is further afield, a sprawling complex in a town called Rincon de Salas, Grecia, in the Central Valley of Costa Rica.
FANAL produces two guaro products; Guaro Cacique (with a red label) which is 30% by 60 proof, and Cacique Superior (with black label), 35% and 70 proof. In addition to maintaining national pride and popularity among Ticos, FANAL touts strict quality control of its Cacique Guaro with a licensed, high purity rubbing alcohol that is further purified through a process in which the liquor is filtered through activated carbon, which also enhances its aroma.
Whether it's served chilled neat, over ice, or mixed with fruit juice, orange-flavored Fanta or grapefruit-flavored Fresca, Cacique Guaro is the quintessential quaff of Costa Rica, and since it's not yet readily available elsewhere in the world, it's one of the must-try beverages for every visitor of drinking age and inclination.