Hemingway’s ‘hangout’ in Cuba marks 200th anniversary

Havana, Aug 17 (IANS) A bar in Havana which used to be American Nobel laureate Ernest Hemingway “hangout” spot and also the birthplace of the classic daiquiri cocktail, 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 El Floridita, Ariel Blanco, told Efe news on Wednesday.

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.

El 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 popularise the daiquiri, a cocktail made with sugar, lemon juice, rum, shaved ice and maraschino liqueur, 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.

Hemingway lived in Cuba for 20 years from 1940. In this period he wrote his most famous work, “The Old Man and the Sea” which garnered Hemingway a Pulitzer Prize in 1953 and the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954.

Although Hemingway has a place of honour 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.

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