"Mi Mojito in la Bodeguita, Mi Daiquirí in El Floridita". (Handwritten Hemingway note on the wall in La Bodeguita del Medio, Havana)

Ah!, Papa Hemingway, a man's man, bon vivant, womanizer and most importantly, drinker extraordinaire. In high school we used to joke that The Sun Also Rises should have been named Let's Have a Drink. It is fitting then that Papa H. immortalized two bars in Havana, where he spent many years until Castro came down from the Sierra Maestra. But this is not about him, nor the bars, but rather about one of the (deservedly so) world's most popular drinks, the Daiquirí.

The Daiquirí has fallen on hard times trampled by another citrus and hooch drink, the margarita, that tequila based poseur. Nowadays, if you can even find it, it is just sour mix and rotgut rum probably dispensed off an ice machine, or worse yet, a strawberry daiquirí like an alcoholic slurpee. As opposed to some drinks, like the Piña Colada which it seems everybody claims to have invented, the history of the Daiquirí is well documented.

When the United States took control of Cuba after the Spanish-America war, the first thing they did was to name a puppet government that ceded the territory on which the Guantanamo Bay base is built and the control over large cultivated acreage as well as all the large and important mines. One of them was an iron mine near a small ore shipping port town called Daiquirí, 14 miles east of Santiago de Cuba. Both the mine and the town were owned by John D. Rockefeller and the Standard Oil Company. American engineers stationed there would spend their free time concocting compuestas, prototypical coctails made of rum, sugar, molasses and chunks of lime stirred using sugar cane stalks in huge vats like the locals did. The gringos would add ice, which had been shipped to Cuba from Boston since 1805, most likely cut out of the Jamaica Pond in my neighborhood. History credits an engineer by the name of Jennings S. Cox with the invention of the drink, or at least the naming of it after the town. He apparently passed out copies of his original recipe to everyone in Cuba:


for 6 persons-
     the juice of 6 lemons(*)
     6 teaspoons ful(sic) of sugar
     6 Bacardi cups "Carta Blanca"
2 small cups of Mineral Water
     Plenty crushed ice - Put all ingredients in a cocktail
shaker - and shake well - Do not strain so the glass may
be served with some ice -

(*)Limes are called lemons (limón) in the Caribbean, sometimes the disctinction is made by calling the lime limón criollo versus the yellow imports from the North

In 1914 Constantino Ribalaigua Vert emigrates from his native Catalonia and on arrival to La Habana gets a job as assistant bartender at El Floridita. He is reputed to have been a veritable magician in his drink creating skills and by 1918 he becomes the owner of the bar. Constante, as most people including Hemmingway called him, refined the Daiquirí and created a number of variations:

Daiquirí Natural- This is the purest version requiring a careful touch with the ingredients. Minor changes in proportions can have a great impact.
  • 1.3 oz light-dry (rum)
  • 0.7 oz lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • crushed ice
Shake and serve, straining the ice or not as desired. Serve in a Martini glass.

Daiquirí Floridita (aka Daiquirí Frappè) - This version is what you will get at El Floridita and is considered the true classic. The Maraschino liqueur helps cover up imbalances between the ingredients.
  • 1.5 oz light-dry (rum)
  • the juice of one lime
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • crushed ice
  • 10 drops of Maraschino liqueur
Mix all the ingredients in a blender until ice is finely crushed and serve iced.

Sometime between 1932 and 1933, Hemmingway who had settled in the Hotel Ambos Mundos in Havana walked into El Floridita to go relieve himself. He noticed the drinks that people were having that looked like snowballs in Martini glasses and asked to have one. He pronounced it too sweet and weak Constante obligingly omitted the sugar and doubled the rum and a new drink was born, the Papa Hemmingway. Constante also produced a variant with added grapefruit juice that he called a Hemmingway Special. Hemmingway became a fixture at the bar and was known to consume as many as ten Daiquirís while sitting in the stool that to this day is reserved for him.

Though the first literary mention of the Daiquiri was in F. Scott Fitzgerald's This Side of Paradise, published in 1920, the Daiquirí reached its peak exposure when it was revealed that it was JFK's preferred pre-dinner cocktail.

El Floridita,http://www.floridita.co.uk/history.php,8/20/2004
El Floridita,http://www.loquesomos.org/amasando/dondetomas/Daiquiri.htm,8/23/2004
Cocktail - Daiquiri,http://hotwired.wired.com/cocktail/98/28/index3a.html,8/24/2004
Getting to know Cuba,http://www.cuba-erleben.de/com/Rum-Drinks.htm,8/25/2004

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