What’s cookin’: Landmark Cocktails: A Taste of Havana

Guest post by Amanda Moreno, CHC Processing Assistant

Havana’s Hotel Nacional is an iconic example of classic Cuban architectural elegance. Situated in the Vedado district along the famed Malecón Drive, the hotel offers beautiful views of both Havana Harbor and the capitol city’s skyline. Since opening in 1930 the hotel has withstood military occupations, a notable mafia presence and the physical decay experienced by many other of the island’s historic buildings. [1] An extensive renovation project was undertaken from 1990 to 1992 in order to restore the hotel’s original decorative details and its overall “eclectic” style. [2] The Hotel Nacional has inspired a lovely cocktail, also referred to as the “National Cocktail,” reproduced from Coctelería cubana: 100 recetas con ron (1992) below:

Hotel Nacional [3]

En la coctelera:

Media onza de jugo de piña, ½ onza de apricot brandy, una onza de ron carta oro, gotas de limón y hielo picado. Batir y servir colado en una copa de coctel.


Floridita drink menu.

El Floridita drink menu.

At the intersection of Calles Obispo and Monserrate lies another famous landmark, the Havana haunt Bar La Florida.  Affectionately known as El Floridita by locals and visitors alike, this home of the daiquiri and Ernest Hemingway has existed in Havana in one form or another since the early 19th century, opening as “La Piña de Plata” in 1817 and eventually changing its name to La Florida because of the influence of North American tourism to the island. [4] Its most celebrated bartender, Constantino Ribalaigua Vert, began working at the bar as a cantinero in 1914 (the terms “bartender” and “barman” had not yet been invented). Ribalaigua, a Spanish immigrant nicknamed Constante, eventually became owner of El Floridita in 1918. [5] Under his direction the bar flourished, inventing such tasty drinks as its namesake, the Floridita Special. The following recipe comes directly from El Floridita to you.

Floridita Special [6]

⅓ Rye Whisky.
½ Martini Rossi Vermouth.
1 teaspoonful Amer Picon.
½ teaspoonful curacao.
½ teaspoonful sugar.
1 dash angostura.
1 small lemon peel.
Cracked ice.

Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

[1] Dania Pérez Rubio, Hotel Nacional de Cuba: el hotel de mis sueños (Havana: Editorial José Martí, 1999), 12.

[2] Pérez Rubio, Hotel Nacional de Cuba, 13.

[3] Fernando G. Campoamor, Coctelería cubana: 100 recetas con ron (Havana: Editorial Científico-Técnica, 1992), 34.

[4] Fernando G. Campoamor, El Floridita de Hemingway (Havana: Editorial Científico-Técnica, 1993), 9 and 17.

[5] Campoamor, El Floridita, 19.

[6] “Bar La Florida Cocktails,” Havana, Cuba.