The daiquiri: one of Ernest Hemingway’s great passions

PHOTO / Author unknown

Havana – The famous novelist Ernest Hemingway treasured in Havana, the capital of Cuba, numerous spaces where he met with friends to talk, write, fish and drink his favorite drink, the daiquiri.

The American intellectual (Oak Park, Illinois, 1899-Ketchum, Idaho, 1961), 1954 Nobel Prize in Literature, traveled to Cuba since the 1920s, and lived in Havana for more than two decades.

“Many cities caught the attention and became protagonists of Hemingway’s many works, but none captivated him in such a way as Havana, especially after his arrival on the ship Anita, belonging to his friend Joe Russell, owner of Bar SloppyJoe` s from Key West, ”commented Cuban essayist Ciro Bianchi.

According to legends of the time, told to Prensa Latina by Bianchi, Hemingway and Russell transported large quantities of beverages from Cuba to the United States during Prohibition, a ban on the sale of alcoholic beverages in force in the northern country between 1920 and 1933.

“They bought it at Casa Ripoll, near the Hotel Ambos Mundos and, even, the intellectual himself said it on one occasion: it was the largest smuggling of drinks so far. It can be a bit exaggerated because I imagine that the cargo of characters like the gangster Al Capone were more numerous, “he commented.

In El Floridita

The American writer made Floridita his home. There he established a friendship with his owner, the Catalan cocktail maker Constante Ribalaigua, considered the father of the cantina in Cuba and the king of the daiquiri, a combination of rum, sugar, lemon, maraschino and ice.

“Traditionally the drink was mixed in the shaker, but Constante introduced the mixer to El Floridita, making it the first bar in the world to use the appliance. Another of his contributions to the original recipe was to add Maraschino liquor, ”Alejandro Bolívar, Head of the Bar of the iconic place, assured Prensa Latina.

Likewise, the author of the variant of the daiquiri known as “Papa Doble” or “Papa Hemingway”, with double the rum and no sugar, the bartender Ribalaigua designed around 200 combinations for distinguished personalities such as the French writer Jean-Paul Sartre, the English screenwriter Graham Greene and American actress Ava Gardner.

“Of the ten quintessential Cuban cocktails, four are created by Constante, as her friends called her. Produced from the El Floridita bar are: “El Mary Pickfords”, as a tribute to the American actress; the “Havana Special”, the name by which a shipping company identified Cuba-Key West trips; the “President”, conceived from the formulation of General Mario García Menocal and the daiquirí ”, indicated Bianchi.

The story goes that Hemingway had several drinks in the place and carried others in a thermos for the road; or they served him in a special glass that he drank while his driver drove him to Finca Vigía. According to legend, he set a record of 12 daiquiris in one sitting.

He frequented the Bar with distinguished guests from literature, art, music and sports such as Ingrid Bergman and Spencer Tracy. “I have been drinking since I was 15 years old and there are few things that have given me so much pleasure (…) Only on two occasions is it bad to drink: when writing or when fighting,” he said.

The life-size statue of Hemingway leaning against the bar, the work of Cuban sculptor José Villa Soberón, immortalized him at El Floridita. Also a bust of the sculptor from the Island Fernando Boada, guards the bench where Hemingway used to sit.

In “Islands in the Gulf”, the most autobiographical of his novels and published posthumously, he provides a portrait of the bar from the vision of its protagonist Thomas Hudson:

“The drink could not be better, not even similar, anywhere else in the world (…) Hudson was drinking another frozen daiquiri and, lifting it, heavy and frost-rimmed glass, looked at the clear part below the frappe top and it reminded him of the sea ”.

In Finca Vigía

At first Hemingway did not like Finca Vigía -where he lived from 1940 to 1961- because it was very far from El Floridita and the port. However, as the Colombian intellectual Gabriel García Márquez said, that was the only truly stable residence that the writer had in his life, Bianchi recalled.

In that mansion, located 15 kilometers from the center of Havana, he typed the last chapters of “For whom the bell tolls”, conceived “Across the river and among the trees”, “Paris was a party”, “Islands in the Gulf ”,“ The garden of Eden ”or“ The old man and the sea ”.

He wrote in the cool of the morning, in his opinion the best time to work “before having the first drink.” His glasses, the Royal Arrow typewriter and a tray with bottles of Cinzano, Bacardi rum and other brands reveal the intellectual’s permanence in the large house in the San Francisco de Paula neighborhood.

The dwelling is currently a homonymous museum frequented by national and foreign visitors. The space, also home to his fourth and last wife Mary Welsh, treasures belongings, rugs, awards and instruments preserved as he left them when he left the Antillean country.

Many consider that, when he left the island in 1960, the author of the northern country could not forget its smells, flavors, routines and landscapes. Neither do their drinks. For Hemingway, this predilection had a reason: “to shed the wounds that life caused him,” he always asserted.