Even in a profession lousy with hard drinkers, Ernest Hemingway stood apart as a man who could put down a drink or two. We’ve already written about the cocktail contributions of his Lost Generation cohorts in Paris, but Hemingway’s drinking was world-wide. In between running the bulls, hunting big game in Africa, and reporting from a war-torn Europe, Papa Hemingway spent a great deal of time in Cuba, where he maintained a residence for over twenty years. Four of his dogs and innumerable of his cats are still buried outside of the house, known as the Finca Vigia.
The humid languor of Havana required a different kind of refreshment than the boulevards of the Parisian arrondissements. The drink of choice in Cuba was the Daiquri. Consisting essentially of lime, rum, and sugar, the daiquri, together with caipirinhas and mojitos, is a direct descendant of grog, which was consumed in vast quantities by sailors, pirates, and those who plied the waters of the Caribbean. The limes prevented scurvy and the rum… well, it’s no secret that the Royal Navy was kept afloat by “rum, sodomy, and the lash.” In Havana, however, the daiquiri became a bit of an art form, no more so than in the hands of Constantino Ribalaigua Vert, the barman at El Floridita, who made a variety of daiquiris, but No. 3 on the El Floridita menu was Papa’s favorite.
El Floridita Daiquiri No. 3
2 oz. light rum
1 oz. fresh lime juice
splash of fresh yellow (not pink or ruby red) grapefruit juice
¼ oz. marashino liqueur
¼ oz. simple syrup
Place all ingredients into a blender with a half-cup of cracked ice, blend until just mixed, pour into a chilled cocktail glass. Alternatively, this drink is also good served up.
For those who are used to frozen drinks sweeter than an all-syrup Kwik-E-Mart Squishee, upon tasting a classically-made daiquiri the question may arise as to why such a dry (i.e. non-sweet) formulation? Well, as Hemingway said: “If you drank that many with sugar it would make you sick.” Natch. When not sitting down to a fleet of sixteen of them in a single afternoon, feel free to add another half-ounce of simple syrup to yours as taste or your guests may require.
Now, in general a “frozen cocktail” makes about as much sense as a “Tory Marxist,” and they are best relegated to the early-bird specials at Dallas BBQ, but this is one of the few drinks for which exception is made, especially when it gets too hot to do much but drink. But in Havana, the poor souls can’t even relieve their boredom with a bracing game of Spanish-edition Monopoly, simulations of financial domination having been banned in Cuba due to their promotion of decadent capitalist values. That said, I’d gladly trade Monopoly for Cuban rum, which is unavailable in the US, but see European duty-free. In any event, we haven’t embargoed daiquiris, so whip up “el favorito de Hemingway,” and enjoy.