HAVANA – Sugar, lemon juice, rum, shaved ice and some drops of maraschino liqueur are the ingredients found in the classic daiquiri, a world-famous cocktail first concocted in a Havana fish restaurant/bar that is marking its 200th anniversary this year.
“We’re not being arrogant when we say this is where the world’s best daiquiri is served,” the director of Floridita, Ariel Blanco, told reporters on Wednesday.
But it’s tough to say if the bar is best known for its flagship cocktail or American Nobel literature laureate Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961), a frequent visitor to this Old Havana establishment during his long stays in Cuba.
A bronze statue inside El Floridita that depicts the famed author, nicknamed Papa, in a standing position and with his elbow on the bar is popular among tourists looking for an amusing selfie.
Floridita, its directors say, has a trove of more than a thousand photos of Hemingway, “999 of which show him drinking,” one waiter joked about the hard-living novelist and short-story writer, who helped popularize the daiquiri through his works.
As a diabetic, however, Hemingway consumed a daiquiri variation known as the “Papa Doble” that contained grapefruit juice instead of sugar and had double the normal amount of rum.
Although Hemingway has a place of honor in El Floridita, Constantino Ribailagua – a Catalan immigrant known as “Constante” who was the owner of the bar in the early 20th century and created some of its most famous concoctions – is its most venerated figure.
He came up with the Papa Doble and El Presidente cocktails and is credited with improving upon the original daiquiri, a concoction first invented – as the story goes – in the southeastern city of Santiago de Cuba by a group of thirsty American mining engineers who only had rum, lemons and sugar at hand for an afternoon cocktail.