Six pm is Sloppy Joe cocktail hour again at the original Sloppy Joe’s saloon, an iconic Cuban bar that reopened Friday April 12, 2013 after a nearly 50-year break in its original location. The restoration, undertaken by the Office of the City Historian of Havana, began in 2007 and has sought to restore the dilapidated building as faithfully as possible, from the outside façade down to the delicate plaster molding, dark wood paneling and colorful bottles of alcohol displayed behind glass. Parts of the dark mahogany bar, once reputedly the longest in Latin America at about 59 feet (18 meters) have even been preserved and restored to splendor.
“What I am interested in is making every effort to give back my city, our city, a whole series of things that are part of its memory….To restore Sloppy Joe’s is to bring back to Havana a place where artists, baseball players, tourists all met…the final objective is not commercial, it’s not to exploit a name. The opportunity it brings is to recover an important memory of Havana.”
Eusebio Leal, Head of the office of the Historian of Havana
So, what’s it like?
This is a large bar with plenty of space, which has been lovingly restored. This seems like a flagship place for the City Historian’s office and they have done a great job. Whether it manages to develop its own ambience will remain to be seen—it is a little bright and chilled for us but maybe that is not a bad thing.
Service was great (although we are still in opening weeks so who knows!), with waiters in black and orange shirts being attentive and friendly. You should try the Sloppy Joe cocktail, a cool, refreshing blend of brandy, port and Cointreau, with a fruity pineapple finish. The menu looks like pretty standard fare (and not cheap) with ceviche and marinated shrimps being good but not spectacular.
Sloppy Joe’s will undoubtedly join La Bodeguita del Medio and El Floridita on the must see tourist trail. This encourages a rapid turnover of visitors, which is not everyone’s cup of tea but does typically engender an upbeat vibe.
Sloppy Joe’s Bar was a historic bar located in Havana, Cuba. The advent of Prohibition in the United States spurred its original owner, Jose Garcia Abeal, to change the emphasis from food service to liquor service when American tourists would visit Havana for the nightlife, the gambling and the alcohol they could not obtain back home.
Sloppy Joe’s welcomed tourists for over four decades, and offered over 80 cocktails in addition to the bar’s own brand of 12 year old rum. During the 1940s and 1950s it became a favorite haunt of American tourists and film stars like John Wayne, Spencer Tracy and Clark Gable as well as tourists wanting to mingle with them. It was for a time one of the most famous bars in the world.
The Cuban Revolution of 1959 saw the American clientele hightail out of Cuba and soon thereafter the bar was nationalized. Over the next few years it languished until a fire in 1965 closed the establishment for good.
Cuba Absolutely Review: September 2013
Sloppy Joe’s Bar
Ánimas, esq. a Zulueta, La Habana Vieja
Tel: +(53) 7-866-7157