There can be few things as sophisticated in life as enjoying a had-rolled Cuban cigar whilst sipping one of the world famous Cuban cocktails. Visitors to modern day Cuba will be bowled over by the number and variations of Cuban cocktails available in the bars there. However, many of these are really just mixed drinks, albeit containing the islands famous White Rum and not one of the classic Cuban cocktails.
Cuban cocktail recipes
The actual content of the classic Cuban cocktails have been made available for you elsewhere in this website, which specializes in Cuban cigars. However, it must not be forgotten that Cuba itself also specializes in producing Rum of the very finest quality; and it is Rum that forms the base for any Cuban cocktail, with white Rum often being specified.
Cuban cocktails and White Rum
A fact that can come as a surprise to many people is that one of the most famous names in white Rum and Rum cocktails – Bacardi; was actually a company that was started up in pre-revolutionary Cuba by a Spanish immigrant in 1862. Facundo Bacardi was a renowned refiner of the Rum in the Santiago district of eastern Cuba; his lighter and clearer Rum put it apart from the rougher distillations, long associated with sailors, producing a drink that the burgeoning population of Cuba appreciated. The Bacardi factories survived the Independence war with Spain and initially prospered under post-revolutionary Cuba. However, Castro appropriated Bacardi properties and then by the early 1960s had exiled the family itself. Fortunately, the Bacardi Rum Company had diversified and had production facilities elsewhere in the Caribbean – so Bacardi white Rum continues to be one of the most popular white Rums commercially available.
Great names in Cuban cocktails
There are some great and iconic names associated with Cuban cocktails. The Cuba Libre and the Presidente clearly reference the revolution of 1959 and, at least to Cubans, celebrate the life of Fidel Castro. However, three truly classic Cuban cocktails – the Mojito, the Daiquiri and the Hemmingway Special stand out above the rest as the defining classic Cuban cocktails.
The Mojito is thought to have originated way back in the 15th century, just as the trade routes to the Caribbean were being established. European sailors putting into the new ports on Cuba having a hand in mixing the Rum, brewed by the indigenous population, with various herbs and fruits available on the island. The cultivation of sugar cane in the 19th century saw sugar too being added to the mix and, by changing to using white Bacardi Rum the after the mid-1800s – developed the Mojito into something approaching our modern one. However, it wasn’t until the 1930s, in Sloppy Joe’s Bar Manual, that the Mojito cocktail recipe that we all know and use now was written down.
The Daiquiri, like the Mojito, can come in several variations of flavors, according to what is added to it. However, the classic or Daiquiri Natural is, of course, the original and, according to whichever story you prefer, it is generally attributed to having first been drunk in either the last years of 19th or the very early years of the 20th century. With the Daiquiri the mystery is all in the ice and how it is crushed to release the flavors of the lemon and Rum.
Ask anyone who appreciates good literature who would be in their top ten of all-time great authors and Ernest Hemmingway will surely be amongst them. Ask any lover of cigars for an iconic 20th century figure that is readily associated with smoking cigars; and again Hemmingway will be one of them. Not only an author but also one of the few that can be described as a ‘mans man’ – Hemmingway is as associable with cocktails as he is with writing and cigars. If you’ve ever been to Venice you should enjoy a Bellini cocktail whilst sitting in Harry’s Bar, on the Calle Vallaresso, just off the Grand Canal. Likewise in Cuba, if you’re in Havana go to the Floridita Bar in the Vieja district and sample a Hemmingway Special, which is famed for its double portion of Rum.