It’s a toasty 35 degrees as we touch down in Managua, Nicaragua. The air is warm and heavy, but comfortable, as if someone slipped a blanket on your shoulders.
Though it is dark, Managua’s streets bustle with all the life of a Monday morning. Donkeys pull carts of plantains and people alongside large, pickup trucks toting dozens of passengers. Our sheltered, air conditioned van full of journalists, brand reps, and a bartender – Freddy – weaves in and out of the chaos, passing small homes made from sheets of metal and wood.
Within minutes, I’m handed a blue plastic cup stamped with the country’s most prominent brand, Flor de Caña – a rum proudly produced, distilled, packaged and promoted across Nicaragua.
“What’s this?” I ask.
“A macuá,” answers Raymundo, our brand rep and local guide for the week. “It’s the official cocktail of Nicaragua; white rum Flor de Caña, mango, lemon, and guava juice. If you finish, keep your cup low. If Freddy sees your elbow up, he’ll be ready with a refill.” I look back to Freddy at the back of the bus, scooping ice out of a cooler, eying us in our seats.
“Fear Freddy,” Ray Ray warns, holding onto a bus seat as we sway through the streets. Freddy nods his head at my full cup and winks.
Thankfully, I didn’t have to worry about a single hangover. Flor de Caña is 100% sugar free, void from artificial colours and flavours. For the rest of the week our bus would happily sip from their bottomless cups. Macuás soon became a staple in our diets, acceptable at any time from breakfast to dinner.
Throughout the week, the rum gave us courage to complete a dozen or so activities that would seem daunting sober. Surfing down the side of an active volcano, tackling 5-foot waves in the Pacific Ocean, or hiking through coffee farms full of fire ants (eep!).
Whether exploring volcanos or walking through markets, Flor de Caña was always within reach – not only via Freddy, but throughout Nicaragua. Flor de Caña bottles glistened on the shelves of bars, restaurants and hotels. Local shops and tourist spots proudly hang Flor de Caña logo tanks and t-shirts in the windows as if they were their local sports team. As Nicaragua’s most exported brand, the power and presence of Flor de Caña throughout the country is undeniable and incomparable to anything in Canada. Seriously, it’s bigger than Tim’s.
Why are Nicaraguans, and people alike, so passionate about Flor de Caña? Maybe because the product is steeped in tradition, history and family – things all of us hold close to our hearts.
Flor de Caña itself is produced with help from Nicaragua’s biggest volcano – and most active – volcano, San Cristóbal. The rich volcanic soil and nutrient-packed water grow and strengthen the sugar cane plant to prep it for harvest and rum production. The volcanic environment also helps the evaporation process and aids the barrels in better flavouring the rum.
Many locals biggest aspiration is to work for Flor de Caña in some facet – not only for the stature, but for the serious benefits. As a 125-year-old, family-run business, Flor de Caña takes itself and its staff seriously. The company built, owns and runs both a private school and private hospital that are free for the employees and their families. Flor de Caña easily embodies the spirit of Nicaragua in that it’s fun, welcoming and accessible. The two go together seamlessly like beans and rice, plantains and queso, macuas and Freddy. If you ever get the opportunity, I would highly recommend checking out Flor de Caña and their home in sunny Nicaragua.