If I had to choose one food to take to a desert island, it’d be an avocado. If I had to choose one to replace half of my medicine cabinet, it’d probably be ginger. Hot, cold, candied, pickled, grated or trying unsuccessfully to blend in at the edges of a jam or sauce – I’ve seen time and time again how ginger can cut through a woolly throat, clear everything out and just generally do you all kinds of good.
That’s why I’m obsessed with agua de sapo, a drink I love at any time of the year but that comes to my mind particularly in October, for two reasons. One is that this is one of the most beautiful times of year in Costa Rica’s Caribbean, the region that has created much of Costa Rica’s most delicious food, including this drink. And another is that the heavy rains in other parts of the country mean that you find yourself reaching for the ginger. A potent mix of ginger, lemon and tapa dulce, or unrefined whole cane sugar, a good agua de sapo should widen your eyes a little bit with that first spicy sip.
I’ve never made it at home, and no, I was not sufficiently organized to try it out before writing this post – you’ve probably realized this by now, but I generally need to write myself into doing things, which is why this project exists – but I will do it and report back. I found a few different recipes online including the news that most people cook it to dissolve the sugar, while others just whack it all in a blender, but the one that made the most sense to me is the one below. It makes a massive amount, but I have a feeling that frozen cubes of agua de sapo would be delightful to have on hand – to cool down a Moscow mule or a ginger beer or ginger ale, or added to a smoothie or juice where you would use ginger.
Have you made agua de sapo? Does thinking about Costa Rican Caribbean food make you drool? Let me know.
Here’s the recipe from Cocina Costarricense:
1 gallon of water
1 tapa de dulce (apparently this can be found as “panela” in other countries – and I would think you should be able to substitute brown sugar. I’m not sure how much loose sugar you’d want to add, but I assume less is more, as you can always add more sugar to the warm mixture at the end.
250 g fresh ginger
1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
Peel, chop and crush the ginger; chop the tapa de dulce into chunks. Add both to 1 liter of water and boil until the sugar is completely dissolved. Cool and strain, then add the lime juice and serve iced.
I’m a writer in San José, Costa Rica, on a year-long quest to share daily posts on inspiring people, places and ideas from my adopted home as a kind of tonic during a rough time in the world. Sign up (top right of this page) to receive a little dose of inspiration every weekday in your mailbox; tell a friend; check out past posts; and please connect with me on Instagram or Facebook! You can also find me churning out small, square poems on any topic under the sun (here on the site, on Instagram or Twitter).