Vino de Coyol: Costa Rica’s Moonshine?

Costa Rica has its share of strange beverages, and we’ve tried a lot of them. There’s Agua de Tamarindo, a brown, sweet drink made from the tamarind fruit. If you go to a bar, you might be served Sangrita, a tomato-juice based shot that tastes to us like a BBQ-sauce Bloody Mary. And for a hot day, there’s Resbaladera, a cold rice drink made with barley, milk, cinnamon, and clove. But one we hadn’t tried yet, until now that is, was Vino de Coyol. We had seen the mysterious bottles sweating in the hot sun along the highways of Costa Rica’s Guanacaste Province, but never stopped. We wanted to learn more first.

 

Vino de Coyol Costa Rica Picture

 

We started with a little Internet research, discovering that the milky looking beverage is mostly popular in the small Nicoya Peninsula town of Nambi between Santa Cruz and Nicoya. It’s not actually a wine as it comes from the sap of the Coyol species of palm tree, and not grapes. When the Coyol palms are cut down, the sap ferments inside the trunk and is later extracted to create the drink. Although the beverage is said to have a very low alcohol content, there are supposedly enzymes present that can have the same effects as alcohol. Even more intriguing was the claim that a couple of glasses can put you on the floor and give you a killer hangover. Better yet still was the mention that exposure to the sun the next day can replicate the intoxication, sort of a two-for-one deal. One thing all of these stories left out, however, was what the real effects of Vino de Coyol actually were—it seemed that nobody had tried it. Being self-proclaimed wine connoisseurs, we decided to put down our box of Clos (a cheap boxed wine found in Costa Rica) and taste for ourselves. We bought a one liter vintage from a roadside table just outside of Santa Cruz for 2,000 colones (about $4). It was refrigerated and came in an old clear rum bottle with a corn cob cork. When we got home, we kept it chilled until it was time to taste. The taste actually wasn’t too bad, reminding us of something between Smarties and those fizzy natural cold remedies Airborne and Emergen-C. Not great but tolerable. It had a sweet taste and fairly smooth yet chalky body. The nose (smell for those non-connoisseurs), however, was terrible. Think vinegar and eggs. Powering through a couple of glasses, we did feel some effects but were hardly on-the-floor drunk, maybe happily buzzed at best. The next day, we woke up hangover free and ventured into the sun for a walk but either the myth of a repeat was false or the partially cloudy day prevented our second drunkenness.

 

Picture

 

Overall we’re glad we tried Vino de Coyol. We love to try new things, especially something so culturally specific to a tiny region of Costa Rica. Maybe next time, we’ll get a different vintage and experience different effects. Until then, we’ll stick to the wine made from grapes. ¡Salud!

 

This post is part of the Sunday Traveler Series, the place to be for travel recommendations, stories, advice, and fun!

 

Post by: Matthew Houde and Jennifer Turnbull-Houde

 

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16 Comments

  1. Ohhhh I’d love to try this fancy sounding drink. Vino de Coyol sounds so expensive. Not like something you’d buy on the side of the road 🙂 Welcome to #SundayTraveler and thanks for linking up with us. I just tweeted your post, but your @ handle did not appear 🙁

    1. It does sound fancy but is far from it- packaged in old liquor bottles and capped with a corn cob! Thanks for sharing…will work on that Twitter @ problem. Always something with websites!

    1. Yeah, the Costa Ricans really know how to use their resources 🙂 I wasn’t surprised to see the recycled bottle and creative cork. Don’t give us too much credit- I only had one glass (Matt was braver and had a couple). I’ve heard from other expats that it shouldn’t have that smell so thinking maybe we got a bad batch and will have to give it another chance…maybe.

  2. Loving reading your Costa Rica posts – still a place on my bucket list! I’m not actually a drinker but I must say that Resbaladera drink sounds absolutely delicious! Might try and find a recipe to try and make it at home!

  3. I’ve never heard about this before! I would like to try it too, as I’m all for trying new things like this. It’s great that you can just buy it at the side of the road! Reminds me of the moonshine we drank in Grenada that was in a large glass jug with lots of spices stuffed in there! Love that! 🙂

    1. Hi Lauren, it does sound a lot like your Grenada moonshine. So fun to try out different country’s handmade liquors. We’d love to go to Grenada- it’s on our list of places to visit while in CR; we’ve heard great things. Thanks for reading!

  4. Hahaha a corn cob cork – how random! I don’t think I could get past the smell to drink it. How disappointing that it didn’t live up to its reputation as well. Sometimes with cheap wine, the more you drink the better it tastes. Alas, not the case here. Thanks for linking up to the #SundayTraveler!

    1. Yeah, you’d hope that it would live up to the getting you buzzed twice thing if it didn’t taste great, right? No chance but it was worth a shot. Thanks for reading, Adelina!

  5. I just bought Jaime today. It actually won’t make you drunk if you keep it cold. You have to let it sit at room temperature for 3 days before it ferments enough to make you feel drunk! You will know when it’s alcoholic because that sweet taste will go away and it will become VERY strong and bitter. That’s when you want to try it if you’re looking for the effects you’re talking about 😉

    1. Interesting Rachel! The stuff should come with a label. Not sure we would want to try it that way if it gets bitter. Think we’ll stick to our Clos 🙂 Thanks for your comment.

  6. It shouldn’t smell bad at all. It should produce a nice and sweet smell similar to cyder. The taste should be swee and slightly acidic similar to a mix of warm Sake and sweet apple cyder. Drink it cold and totally avoid corn cob corks as those will change the flavor and may contain other types of microorganisms that change the flavor. Look for totally plastic bottles on the road side that are kept in coolersand be sure to maintain the cold cycle after purchased.

  7. Vino de Coyol is a beautiful drink and our family has been producing it for approximately 100+ years in Africa. The good news is that you will now be able to buy Vino de Coyol Palm Wine directly from us in our offices in Guanacaste. You can go to http://www.vinodecoyol.com for more information. Ultimately, because of potential bacteria formed during the fermentation process it is quite important to know where your coyol is coming from. Our Coyol is pasteurised and in a safe bottle so you can enjoy the great taste, you can put it in the fridge and drink at your own time instead of the natural rush before the Palm Wine bottle or Vino de Coyol drink will not turn into vinegar. So check us outbat http://www.vinodecoyol.com and come and do some Palm Wine or Coyol tasting. We are in Guanacaste, we are moving from Liberia to Tamarindo. Thanks

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