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Bebedero - San José

I am a person who avoids gigantic bars with headache-inducing lighting, $2 Natty Light buckets and the guaranteed swath of inebriated, jerseyed customers. There’s nothing wrong with that type of bar—in fact, in some circumstances it’s the only right type of bar—and as I am a student who attends The University of Alabama, I often get swept in with the rest of them (Roll tide).

 

But when I have the opportunity, I choose a bar with an inviting, intimate atmosphere, a menu that has a sense of place and a lead bartender who is interested in both showing his or her skills while simultaneously satisfying the customer.

 

Bebedero fits all of these characteristics.

 

Bebedero is a bar that transports you from lively San Jose to a tiny, quiet speakeasy. That is until you take a sip of your drink, which will, if you so choose, contain tastes of Costa Rican flair such as a sugar cane stirring stick or astringent juice of cas, a native fruit.

 

The bar, which is in an upstairs apartment of a former night club, is difficult to find at first. But when you arrive there, you feel welcome. The room is tiny and dark, lit only by the warm glow of a chandelier and a few candles. There is a brown leather couch in the back, a few two-top tables and a an eight-seat bar.

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The drink menu consists of a short list of staple alcohols with which the bartender can craft a classic cocktail or a most sophisticated sort of build-your-own beverage. I prefer bold, alcohol-forward cocktails: punchy, not too sweet and full of character. The bartenders know this within minutes, too, because they asked.

 

“Long or short?” they asked.

 

“Sweet or spicy? Herbal, floral or neither?”

 

I first requested a tequila cocktail and received one accented with passion fruit juice, cucumber and bitters. The bartender hand cut my ice cube and coated the rim of my rocks glass with chile salt. The sips started smokey, and the salt rounded the sweet passion fruit juice. As it happens while drinking any good cocktail, my interest in the drink lingered as long as the drink lasted.

 

After a few cool glasses of cucumber water, I was ready for a second drink. I asked for a boulevardier with a twist, and Liz Furlong, a Canadian expat who runs the bar, traded the traditional whiskey for rum and stirred in a splash of balsamic vinegar. Like the salt in my first drink, the vinegar colored every aspect of the drink until it ended on an inevitable bitter note from Campari.

 

The cocktails at Bebedero are as layered and complex as the city that contains the bar. Since there are no particular drinks to recommend, I can’t make any specific suggestions. All I can recommend is that you go.

-Mary Clay Kline