Drink of the Week: Rumbin

Here’s a tropical cocktail named for my friend Robin, who we’re travelling with in Costa Rica. I was tasked one evening with making her a fruity drink that didn’t have gin in it. So, I added some Dos Pinos Mixto de Frutas to a shot of Fleur de Cana rum, squeezed in some lime and ended up with this splendid cocktail, which Avery aptly called the Rumbin.

It's a fruity rum drink with a squeeze of lime. Best enjoyed by a waterfall in Costa Rica.

This fruity rum drink is best enjoyed by a waterfall in Costa Rica.

Rumbin

  • 1-1/2 oz rum
  • 3 oz mixed fruit juice (Dos Pinos is a combination of pineapple, papaya, mango, banana and orange juice)
  • Squeeze lime
  • Garnish: Tropical flower

Method: Build in a tall glass over ice and garnish with a tropical flower.

Ziplining at Selvatura Park

Zooming high above the cloud forest canopy I see only the tops of the trees below; a sea of green foliage that cachets hundreds of species of birds and thousands of butterflies. It’s not the best way to see Costa Rica’s abundant wildlife, but it’s certainly the most exhilarating way to experience the jungle.

At Selvatura Park 13 zips speed guests over 3.5 km of rainforest canopy.

At Selvatura Park 13 zips speed guests over 3.5 km of rainforest canopy. Here, Avery gets doubled by another rider.

We’re at Selvatura Park, a rainforest park that borders Monteverde, the country’s most famous cloud forest. For two hours we get to be like the howler monkeys that wake us up every morning, zipping from tree to tree while covering 3.5 kilometres in the air across a series of 13 zips. No sooner do I alight at one platform than a guide clips me onto the next cable and sends me screaming out over the green abyss.

Avery and I stop for a selfie on a zipline platform.

Avery and I stop for a selfie on a zipline platform.

It’s my third time ziplining (I have tried it previously on Maui and in Vernon, B.C.) and this is by far the best. As far as the eye can see there is only 50 shades of green and the wonder at what lurks beneath the canopy.

Fifty shades of green.

Fifty shades of green.

Avery holds a blue morpho butterfly inside the butterfly garden.

Avery holds a blue morpho butterfly inside the butterfly garden.

After, we join a tour of the butterfly garden, watch violet sabrewing hummingbirds whiz through the hummingbird garden, and explore the hanging bridges canopy walk, a three-kilometre hike around the park where we spot shrill bellbirds calling from the treetops. Avery even manages to catch another frog (her total for the trip so far: five).

The hanging bridges hike lets us spot birds that surround us in the forest canopy.

The hanging bridges hike lets us spot birds that surround us in the forest canopy.

At day’s end we brave the crazy Costa Rican roads on the long drive back to Nuevo Arenal. We never do spot a resplendent quetzal, the “it” bird of Monteverde, but after hours spent flying like one above the rainforest, it’s fair to say we’re ok with that.

Taking the waters at Tabacon

You wouldn’t think you’d need to visit a hot springs in Costa Rica (it being a tropical country and all) but after visiting Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort and its numerous secluded pools and their accompanying waterfalls and lush foliage, you’ll vote in favour of “taking the waters” and boiling in their therapeutic, mineral-rich pools. Especially when the hot springs bubble up from a volcano that was active as recently as 2010.

Bennett and Blake peer over a waterfall at Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort.

Bennett and Blake peer over a waterfall at Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort.

I have never seen such an extensive and beautifully landscaped thermal resort. I am used to the “one concrete hot pool” variety so common in Canada. At Tabacon, they have gone to extremes to make the pools as natural as possible, building them around a stream that flows from the Arenal Volcano, near La Fortuna. The result is a series of cascading pools and waterfalls crowded with plants that help create natural grottos and hidden swimming holes.

Grammie and Avery enjoy our private hot pool at Tabacon. Photo by Lisa Kadane.

Grammie and Avery enjoy a secluded hot pool at Tabacon.

Avery loved scrambling up the warm waterfall “staircase” and searching for iguanas and basilisks, while Bennett was happy leaning over waterfalls to watch the warm water fall into the pool below.

Critters love Tabacon too. Avery was reptile hunter and found this basilisk (they can run atop water for short distances. How cool is that?). Photo by Lisa Kadane.

Critters love Tabacon, too. Avery was reptile hunter and found this basilisk (they can run atop water for short distances. How cool is that?). Photo by Blake Ford.

In the afternoon we found our Shangri-La — two pools sequestered at the end of a winding pathway. One was hot and the other cool, perfect for alternating between the two.

If there's water, you can pretty much get in anywhere at Tabacon, including this waterfall stream. Photo by Lisa Kadane.

If there’s water, you can pretty much get in anywhere at Tabacon.

Oh, and did I mention the spa? Sadly, with two kids in tow there simply wasn’t an opportunity to sneak away for a Volcanic Mud Wrap treatment. Next time!

Pura Vida in Costa Rica

After years of talking about taking a family holiday to Costa Rica we are finally here! And it is beautiful. We’re based near the small town of Nuevo Arenal, on the shore of Lake Arenal about one hour from the Arenal Volcano and adventure centre La Fortuna.

Family hike at Villa Encantada near Nuevo Arenal.

Family hike at Villa Encantada near Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica. Posing in front of a 400-year-old tree.

No resort for us — we’ve rented gorgeous Villa Encantada that sits on 40 forested acres and comes with hiking trails, a waterfall, a pond for fishing and kayaking, and a pool and water slide. If we run out of things to do there’s a bird feeder that attracts ridiculously colourful birds (identifying them in the Birds of Costa Rica book is hopeless, as there are so many different kinds), plus a slew of nearby adventure activities. We’ll be here another three days, then it’s off to a beach house at Playa Grande for the final week.

Avery enjoyed a soak in the waterfall at Villa Encantada. Photo by Lisa Kadane.

Avery enjoyed a soak in the waterfall at Villa Encantada.

Kayaking around the pond at Villa Encantada. Photo by Lisa Kadane.

Kayaking around the pond at Villa Encantada.

Everyone who comes to Costa Rica raves about it and now I get it. Fresh air, fresh fruit, unspoiled cloud forests and picture-perfect volcanoes. It really lives up to its unofficial national slogan: “Pura Vida!” (Pure Life). I’m excited to share some of our adventures over the next couple weeks, and write about experiencing the country with kids for an upcoming issue of WestJet Magazine. Until then, Pura Vida!

A turquoise bird and a green bird dig in to the papaya rinds. Photo by Lisa Kadane.

Tropical birds dig in to the papaya rinds.

Hiking Indiana Jones style at Villa Encantada. Photo by Lisa Kadane.

Hiking Indiana Jones-style at Villa Encantada.

Drink of the Week: Chartreuse Swizzle

It seems ages ago that Blake and I visited San Francisco for a working (for me) holiday (for him) where we joined active tours by day and enjoyed delicious cocktails by night. Because I’m dreaming of another trip, and also because my Three Days in San Francisco story is coming right up in the April issue of WestJet Magazine, I decided to revisit the City by the Bay’s delicious drinks for this week’s post. (Ask any bartender what’s the top cocktail city in North America and it will likely be a toss up between New York and San Francisco.)

Forget the Golden Gate Bridge, let's talk about San Francisco's cocktails. Photo by Blake Ford.

Forget the Golden Gate Bridge, let’s talk about San Francisco’s cocktails. Photo by Blake Ford.

 

We started our initiation into the city’s cocktail culture on Avital Tours’ Union Square Cocktail Tour, which takes thirsty travellers to some great bars in the city centre. Guide Zev Keppleman kept us entertained while we learned about San Fran’s signature cocktail, the Pisco Punch, at Cantina, and sipped our way through a Sazerac at Tradition and a Chartreuse Swizzle at Clock Bar.

The Chartreuse Swizzle is a great introduction to Green Chartreuse, a liqueur made from a staggering 130 herbs and plants.

The Chartreuse Swizzle is a great introduction to Green Chartreuse, a liqueur made from 130 herbs and plants. Photo by Lisa Kadane.

On its own Green Chartreuse has a strong, assertive flavour that’s at first sip sweet, but then becomes spicy and pungent as it expands across the palate. It makes interesting cocktails, and I really liked it in the Chartreuse Swizzle. The Velvet Falernum added an exotic sweetness, the lime a hit of tart and the pineapple juice rounded it out nicely. Blake could’ve just sipped it straight.

Our trip carried on with more cocktail bars, including the famous Trick Dog (in itself deserving of a post…), but the Chartreuse Swizzle stayed with me as a great introduction to San Francisco’s cocktail scene.

Chartreuse Swizzle, Clock Bar at The Westin, San Francisco

  • 1.25 oz Green Chartreuse
  • 0.5 oz Velvet Falernum
  • 1 oz pineapple juice
  • 0.5 oz lime juice

Method: Shake, strain into a rocks glass filled with shaved ice, garnish with nutmeg and mint.

— Created by Marco Dionysos

 

The Hall of Fame

We finally made it to Anju. Not only does this Korean small plates restaurant on 17th Ave. S.W. have tasty bites to eat (the Crispy Tofu is amazing!), the cocktails are good, too. Many have an Asian bent, thanks to the use of ingredients such as black sesame syrup, yujacha (a Korean citrus tea) and ginseng bitters.

I loved The Hall of Fame, a bourbon-based cocktail with lemon juice, dry curaçao and Yellow Chartreuse. The game changer is the Korean Plum Syrup; it adds a unique sweet flavour that rounds out the drink. It’s a bit complicated to make at home (recipe below), but now you know where to order it!

Another great winter cocktail, with bourbon and Korean plum syrup.

Another great winter cocktail, with bourbon and Korean plum syrup.

The Hall of Fame

  • 1.5 oz bourbon
  • .5 oz dry curaçao
  • .25 oz Yellow Chartreuse
  • .5 oz fresh lemon juice
  • .75 oz Korean Plum Syrup*
  • Lemon twist garnish

Method: Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker, shake with ice and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

*Korean Plum Syrup

  • Korean plum tea (available at Korean markets)
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 cup marmalade-like jam (available at Korean markets)

Method: Steep tea in hot water. Add jam and combine until a syrup-like consistency is achieved (you may have to add a bit more hot water).

— Recipe courtesy Anju

Drink of the Week: Cilantro’s Pachamama

Cilantro has had some great cocktail lists in recent years and this winter’s selection of exotic libations with a  tropical bent is no exception. Aptly dubbed “Into the Wild,” the list features a No Speak Americano with Aperol, Punt e Mes and a black-tea-anise syrup; a Stray Greyhound with grapefruit juice, Punt e Mes and rosemary syrup; and a Lion Around with Lillet, vodka, gin and dandelion honey wine, among others.

But it’s the Pachamama, whose name references the Incan fertility goddess, that got my attention. It’s a gin-lemon-sugar drink that’s elevated with black walnut bitters and an absinthe rinse. Then, it’s served quite flamboyantly with a flaming sprig of thyme, as if it’s an offering to Pachamama herself. To achieve this dramatic flair the thyme has been soaked in Green Chartruse, which helps it flame awhile.

When it’s safe to drink the overall effect is a slightly smoky, very herbaceous cocktail that’s just right for any drinking altar (like a bar). If you don’t finish the whole thing they’ll throw you into the volcano, so drink up!

This gin-based cocktail is simple yet surprisingly complex.

This gin-based cocktail is simple yet surprisingly complex.

Pachamama

  • Absinthe rinse
  • 2 oz The Botanist gin
  • .5 oz lemon juice
  • .5 oz simple syrup (1:1 sugar to water ratio)
  • 3 dashes black walnut bitters
  • Garnish: Thyme soaked in Green Chartreuse

Method: Soak a sprig of thyme in Green Chartreuse. Rinse a martini glass with absinthe. In a cocktail shaker, combine gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and bitters with ice. Shake, then strain into the martini glass. Remove thyme from Green Chartreuse, set afire and place atop the glass. — Recipe courtesy Cilantro