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A Cocktail Anyone?

A Cocktail Anyone?

by Margaret Atkins

Early in 1805, Mr. Federico Tudor arrived in the Port of Havana. Known as the King of Ice, he convinced the Spanish authorities to allow him to open an establishment that would sell ice in Cuba. By mixing ice, rum, sugar and lemon, and a sprig of hierba buena (a variety of mint), the quintessential Cuban cocktail was born. It is said that soldiers of the Liberation Army would tie a container to the pommel of their saddles that contained two-thirds rum or spirits and one third lemon or sour orange juice. Whenever they could they would sweeten it with sugar or honey.

The 19th century brought us a drink similar to the one we now call Cuba Libre, which was the combination of rum and cola, and the Daiquirí (rum, lemon and sugar poured over crushed ice, often embellished with a dash of maraschino) invented in the Daiquirí Mines in Oriente Province. The miners, but especially the engineers, would frequently drink this cocktail after work and they taught the barmen at the Venus de Santiago Hotel how to prepare it with rum, lemon and ice. From there it spread all over the country until it arrived at the Floridita Bar in Havana, which was already a working establishment since 1819 but didn’t attain its world-recognized reputation until after the US intervention of 1902. That’s where Hemingway would drink his Hemingway Special: a daiquiri without sugar and with a double measure of rum over ice. Legend says that the writer would spend long hours in the bar and that he would average 12 drinks per day.

In 1910 other famous cocktails made their debut: Mojito, Jai Lai, Rum Fizz, the Santiago and the Presidente. The 1920s were the heyday for Cuban cocktails since the effects of the US Prohibition Act resulted in many American hotel, bar, casino, cabaret and restaurant owners moving their businesses to Havana. There was a veritable explosion of Cobblers, Daisies and Collins. A long list of drinks bearing the names of actors, singers, countries and capital cities made their appearance: the Cuban Manhattan, the Santiago Special and the Mary Pickford that was a delightful concoction of rum, pineapple juice and grenadine.

These days a virtually endless variety of mixtures are being shaken together in many establishments all over Cuba. Some are typically Cuban and others belong to the repertoire of international cocktails; many more have been born by fusing the two. The drinks have delicious fruit juices, an assortment of colors and any of the many varieties of rum available. The art of the drink in Cuba is alive and well, from the straightforward aged rum-on-the-rocks right up to the complicated 7-ingredient mixes. You can’t get away from it: you absolutely have to come and try them.

Here’s a sample of Cuban cocktails for you to try at home:

 

BARACOA

Combine in a glass:

1 teaspoonful of sugar

4 spoonfuls of white rum

Add:

½ cup of coconut milk

ice cubes

Stir and serve.

CERVEZA ESPECIAL

Combine in a chilled cocktail glass:

2 teaspoonfuls of sugar

3 spoonfuls of pineapple, orange, tangerine, melon or grapefruit juice

1 spoonful of lemon juice

4 spoonfuls of rum

Add:

1 ice cube

Stir and add:

1 bottle of beer, chilled

Stir and serve.

HEMINGWAY

Stir together in a glass:

1 spoonful of lemon juice

1 spoonful of maraschino

1 spoonful of grapefruit juice

4 spoonfuls of white rum

Shake with chipped ice before serving.

ISLA DE PINOS

Combine in a glass:

1 spoonful of grapefruit juice

½ teaspoonful of sugar

4 spoonfuls of white rum

Shake with chipped ice before serving.

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