When cold weather dominates the land, it’s hard not to think about places you might rather be—instead of digging out from the latest snow storm. Why not bring home a little of the exotic, maybe from the not-so-distant Caribbean? This week and next, we will feature two Caribbean cocktails that share something in common: Cuba.
And that’s not all they share. Although US readers are legally barred from traveling to Cuba as tourists (let alone enjoying any products that originate there) you should know that Cuba has played an important role in shaping the cocktail landscape. Most notably, a bar called El Floridita in Havana has made many significant contributions—most of them attributed to the 1918 bartender/owner Constantino Ribalaaigua Vert. Constante, as his friends referred to him, featured numerous daiquiris and classic American cocktails on his menu. One daiquiri was named for the establishment and a variation of it became a favorite of Ernest Hemingway. But, we are getting ahead of ourselves.
When the joint first opened in 1819 it was called La Piña de Plata (The Silver Pineapple). About a century later, the name changed to La Florida. There is some confusion after this. The locals began to refer to La Florida as Floridata, a more affectionate, diminutive form of the name. However, even as late as 1930, a menu booklet was published that still represented the place as La Florida. For some reason, people also change the definitive article taking the masculine form as El Floridita instead of La Floridita. I know that spanish nouns have gender, and I have read that a bar is normally masculine which might explain it. Whatever you decide about the name, know that there are two very different cocktails, the Floridita Daiquiri, and the Floridita Cocktail. Today, I present the cocktail:
1.5 oz rum
.5 oz lime juice
.5 oz sweet vermouth
.25 oz white crème de cacao
splash real pomegranate grenadine
Shake with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a lime twist.
Depending on your grenadine, this cocktail can look a pale orange-brown or a wonderful cosmo-pink. Actually, if you enjoy the Cosmopolitan (it can be a tasty beverage if made properly) this is a wonderful alternative with a more complex flavor profile. Use a light rum, as the sharper flavor will help here. In addition to adding color, the vermouth brings a variety of herbal notes and begins the balancing act of sweet with sour lime. But the important element here is the crème de cacao. It’s subtle. That’s the whole point. You should detect something behind the other flavors just teasing your memory a bit. Like the 20th Century cocktail, it’s not meant to hit you over the head with chocolate, and as you’ll see next week, the same idea applies to the Floridita Daiquiri. Finally, the grenadine is an important consideration. It’s so easy to make your own that it should be a requirement here. Grenadine is pomegranate syrup, but store bought brands are often corn syrup chemistry potions without any fruit at all.
I don’t often feature a recipe that lists a “splash” amount, so for those of you that are confused by that notion, start with one quarter-ounce of grenadine and try to work your way down from there. It’s tempting to want to add more, but that’s not the goal with this cocktail. The idea is to bring together the flavor of your rum, the complexity of sweet vermouth, the understated cacao and the grenadine—all in balance with the sour lime. Don’t let your sweet tooth run away with this drink. The fresh lime is every bit as much of a flavor component as the rest of it.
Next week, we’ll feature the other Floridita (the Floridita Daiquiri) along with Hemingway’s favorite variation!