Talking with a top cantinero at the historic El Floridita bar in Havana, Cuba.
When he lived in Havana, author/adventurer Ernest Hemingway was a regular at El Floridita. He would pull up a stool at the short end of the L-shaped bar to observe all that transpired and drink daiquiris.
In April, Wine Enthusiast traveled to Havana to learn more about the city’s historic rum culture. Our November magazine will have much more detail. But we couldn’t miss an opportunity to share El Floridita’s signature daiquiri recipe during these long, hot days of summer.
We met with Manuel Carbajo Aguiar, a cantinero and 20-year veteran at El Floridita. In many ways, a cantinero is similar to a mixologist, as they make great cocktails and emphasize hospitality. But they also complete years of training before they receive El Floridita’s coveted red cantinero jacket and step behind the bar. There’s a certain fluidity and grace to how a cantinero works.
“Cantineros don’t do anything that is inelegant,” says Carbajo Aguiar, via a translator. “Each may be different in style. What’s important is that people can enjoy the preparation of the cocktails.”
“Cantineros don’t do anything that is inelegant.”—Carbajo Aguiar
He shared the bar’s daiquiri recipe. “It’s a classic from the beginning of El Floridita, and we’re not changing,” he says with a twinkle in his eye.
Of course, Hemingway was known to make his a double. The “Papa Doble,” a well-loved daiquiri variation, has since evolved to include grapefruit juice and Maraschino liqueur, in addition to lime juice and a double dose of rum. We, however, are glad to savor ours one frosty sip at a time.
The El Floridita Daiquiri
Courtesy Manuel Carbajo Aguiar, cantinero, El Floridita, Havana
Compared to a traditional daiquiri, which would be strained into coupe glasses or served on the rocks, this slushy version is a refreshing change of pace. In general, cocktails in Cuba are less sweet than American-style drinks. You can add another half-tablespoon of sugar, if you prefer.
- 1 teaspoon Demerara sugar
- 1½ ounces white rum, like Havana Club 3 year
- ½ ounce lime juice
- ⅓ teaspoon maraschino liqueur
- 1 cup ice
Add all ingredients into a blender. Run for about 1 minute, or until slushy. Pour into martini glass. Serve with a straw.
Kara Newman, Wine Enthusiast