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Bottles of Guayabita del Pinar at the factory

Cuban booze: Guayabita del Pinar

Cuba’s famous for rum and rum drinks. Mojitos, daiquiris and Cuba Libres are everywhere, especially everywhere there’s tourists. But I’ve got another local favorite: Guayabita del Pinar.

Guayabita means “little guava.” The deal is, in the Pinar del Rio region of Cuba, there’s a particular tree whose berries are tiny guavas. They’re about the size of a blueberry. And someone got the bright idea of infusing the flavor from these guayabitas into a sugarcane liquor. In 1892, Guayabita went from being just a local home brew to commercial production… and today it’s one of the more distinctive drinks in Cuba.

A man reaches up to adjust a bottling machine

A friend of mine adds bottlecaps to the machine that fills and caps all the bottles. From here, they head to the labeling station.

There are two types of Guayabita del Pinar, dry and sweet. The far more common type is the dry. The background of the label is white, and the banner is a deep pink – see the photo at the top of this post. You can get this at many liquor stands and shops – and at the Duty Free shops in Cuban airports.

The other, more unique drink is a sweet liqueur called Guayabita del Pinar Dulce. (“Sweet Guayabita del Pinar”) It’s sweet and smooth enough to sip all day. This bottle has the reverse color scheme, white banner against a deep pink background, and I’ve only ever seen it in the Pinar del Rio region.

Or maybe I should say: After an intensive search, I’ve only seen it in the Pinar del Rio region. On a recent trip, I took a traveler to the Guayabita factory. She saw the sweet Guayabita at the factory’s store but thought she could buy a bottle later in the trip. So she left without buying any. Once we got back in Havana, she asked where she could buy some… and we couldn’t find it anywhere. None of the stores carry it. I’ve decided the next time I get a chance, I’m going to pick up a bottle and mail it to her as a surprise. But the upshot is, I know it’s not widely available outside the region where it’s produced.

A colorful mural of a bottle of Guayabita

This colorful mural graces the wall of the factory

There aren’t that many guayabita trees around, and they won’t grow just anywhere. So the whole operation is based on the careful cultivation of these trees in the few places where they grow. It means production will never get very big – and Guayabita del Pinar will never get mass produced. I like the fact it’s produced in small quantities and hard to get. Makes it feel that much more special when you enjoy a sip!

A shot of a patriotic slogan and mural in the Guayabita factory

Revolutionary messages inside the Guayabita factory: “Revolution is equality and full liberty.” The mural features Jose Marti, Cuba’s national hero, and Che Guevara.

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