Havana.- 2017 will be a joyous year for Havana’s famous El Floridita restaurant and bar, Ernest Hemingway’s favorite, which will mark the 200th anniversary of its founding in July with an ample program of cocktail competitions and other celebratory events.
The popular bar is almost always teeming with tourists wanting to taste its renowned “Daiquirí” tropical cocktail, immortalized by Nobel Prize winner Heminway during the last century.
Originally named La Piña de Plata, the El Floridita Bar and Restaurant first opened its doors on July 6, 1817. In 1953 the U.S. magazine Esquire listed it as one of the seven most famous bars in the world.
The restaurant’s manager, Ariel Blanco spoke to Prensa Latina about a range of activities planned throughout this year, to promote the bar’s quality, history and international prestige.
One of the highlights will be a visit in October by more than 200 representatives of the International Bartenders Association (IBA), who will join their Cuban colleagues for the bicentennial.
The visitors will judge the King of Kings International Cocktail Contest, a culmination of the famous The Daiquirí King, dedicated to the Floridita’s flagship beverage.
Blanco said that some surprises are also in store for Cuba’s Bartenders’ Day celebrations on October 7. Two of the 55 people working at the bar – Zudlay Nápoles and Orlando Blanco, the house maitre – have won the International Habanos Sommelier Contest, a combined food, drink and cigar tasting.
Specializing in fresh seafood, the restaurant on Old Havana’s emblematic Obispo Street has been visited by celebrities such as Paco Rabanne, Naomi Campbell, Matt Dillon, Kate Moss, Danny Glover, Jack Nicholson, Fito Páez and, Jean Paul Belmondo and an array of Hollywood stars during the 1940s and 50s. Its symbolic daiquirí cocktail has become legendary and different tales relating to its origin are told.
One claims that the engineer Pagliuchi, captain of the Cuban Liberation Army, first made one at the Daiquiri gold mine in the eastern Cuban province of Santiago de Cuba. It is said that the captain, on meeting his U.S. colleague Jennings S. Cox, mixed the drink from the only things he had on hand to offer to his guest; gin, vermouth, rum, sugar and lemon.
Another story dates back to the 1898 U.S. troops landing at Daiquirí beach. Their commander, General Shafter, supposedly mixed rum, lemon and sugar drink and then added some ice to give his invention a special touch.
Years later, the Spanish-born bartender Emilio ‘Maragato’ Gonzáles made the drink popular in Havana and his fellow countryman Constantino Ribalaigua Veri (Constante) was responsible for its subsequent close association with the El Floridita.
Francisco Menéndez, Periodico26.cu
February 25, 2017