In 1932, in the depths of prohibition, Ernest Hemingway moved to Cuba. Famous, and financially independent from the success of his second novel “A Farewell to Arms”, Hemingway spent much of his time in Cuba fishing and writing.
It was his quest for drink that led him to meet bartender Constantino Ribalaigua and today’s drink.
Cuba offered a welcome oasis to thirsty Americans during prohibition, and rich Americans went there in droves. Irving Berlin’s song put it this way:
So let us leave our cares and troubles behind,Havana was full of bars, from the swank Jockey Club to the American hangout Sloppy Joes, but for the cognoscenti, there was “La Cuna del Daiquiri” – the cradle of the daiquiri - the bar El Floridita - owned by bartender Constantino Ribalaigua, the ‘king of the daiquiri’.
And tell 'em our new address
Is where they stay up late and drink till they're blind?
Blind, but nevertheless, they're glad to see you in C.U.B.A.*
The Daiquiri – rum, lime, and sugar - was invented in Cuba sometime between 1895 and 1905, perhaps by an American mining engineer Jennings Cox. We are not certain, but it is likely that Constantino Ribalaigua created the first frozen daiquiri, a drink made with shaved ice and blended by being tossed back and forth between two cocktail shakers. Later, with the invention of the blender, they were made with electric drink mixers.
“What he did not invent, he perfected” Havana Bartender’s Guild
Constantino Ribalaigua had his own recipe for the classic daiquiri and three variations. Daiquiri Number three – white rum, lime, maraschino liqueur**, grapefruit juice - would probably have been lost to us, except Hemingway loved it. He liked his drinks without sugar, and slightly tart. It was renamed “the Hemingway Daiquiri” in his honor, and a double is called a “Papa Doble.”
Most mornings found Hemingway in his regular seat at El Floridita at 10 am, where his driver brought him his morning paper. He often brought his friends to El Floridita – among them Jean Paul Sartre, Tennessee Williams, and Spencer Tracy.
From our first sip the Hemingway Daiquiri has been one of our summer favorites, and it is one of our first “researched drinks.”
We went through my library of over 60 cocktail books (and numerous websites and many cocktail blogs) and came up with 8 recipes for the El Floridita #3 including Constantino’s original recipe. They all have all the same ingredients but in different ratios. People’s tastes – their preferences for tart and sweet - vary, and have changed over the years. Working with our tireless research team we tried them all.***Today’s recipe was the unanimous favorite of the research team:
- White Rum 1.5 oz
- Maraschino Liqueur .75
- Lime juice .75 oz
- ruby (red) grapefruit juice .25
- In making pitchers of these, I noticed that the recipe worked very well for quantity four, but by quantity 8 the Maraschino and Lime were a bit overstated, so for eight it was more like rum 12, maraschino 5, lime 5, grapefruit 2 - however in the heat of the party I didn't make notes of my experiments.
- I made these in a blender - measure rum, maraschino, lime, grapefruit - blend for 2 or 3 seconds, then add ice. I started with about 3 parts drink, 2 parts ice, then I moved on to 1 part drink 1 part ice. I tried to refrigerate the rum beforehand, but we overloaded the fridge and blocked a vent, and nothing got very cold. In the future I would definitely chill or ice all ingredients that are going into a blender.
- We are saddened to add that over the years we have stopped using the famous Bacardi Rum. We aren't sure, but it seems that because of the huge popularity of vodka, the folks at Bacardi have changed their product so that it will appeal to vodka drinkers – they removed most of the flavor, the flavor that made their rum famous. We started out using our 'standard white rum' - Myer’s Platinum Rum, and experimented with Flor de Caña Extra Dry [recommended by author Jeff “Beach Bum” Berry, quoted here in Erik Flannestad's blog]. The Flor de Caña was a clear home run, adding substantial flavor to the drinks. Jackson's Wine & Liquors has it on sale for $8.90 a bottle at the moment. In fact, we like the Flor de Caña so much, we are going to make Bacardi Cocktails ...
- For this recipe, we use Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
**Maraschino liqueur is made from sour cherries and has nothing to do with those cherry-shaped red objects occasionally found in cocktail glasses
Selected Links and References
Drinks After Hemingway's Own Heart - NPR - listen to Phil Greene, of the Museum of the American Cocktail, meets us at a watering hole in downtown Washington, D.C., to tell us about the drinks Hemingway wrote about, especially a unique version of a frozen daiquiri.
The Old Man and the Daiquiri - A pilgrimage through Hemingway's Havana, from Atlantic Magazine