Havana, February 7th, 2017
Decision adopted by the Cuban Bartenders Association.
By this mean, we inform that, as requested by the International Bartenders Association (IBA), we were asked to select a national cocktail to be included in the IBA classic cocktails. After an analysis made by the National Directorate of Cuban Bartenders Association (CBA) and other outstanding people linked to the Cuban Bartenders Association´s labour, it was determined and approved by the National General Assembly, at the beginning of this year, that the Cocktail “Daiquiri Natural” would be the Cuban national cocktail, paying attention to its history and its national and international relevance and development.
We attach the historical foundation on which we were based for this selection, that´s why we request all institutions and ministries linked to the labour of the Bar to make known this decision to all their workers, due to its significance for our country.
Fraternity and Progress.
José Rafa Malém.
Historical foundation of Daiquiri as Cuban National cocktail
Every person who visits Cuba can feel the Caribbean charm since the moment they are walking down the stairs of the plane. They feel a soft breeze swaying among the different blue shades from sea and sky, and the sunshine making everything glows brightly.
All visitors arrive in Cuba willing to enjoy the pleasure of nature, inspired by the Admiral Don Christopher Columbus, who was the first to become enthusiastic about this island as he qualified it as "the most beautiful place that human eyes had ever seen."
The first chapter of the history of the Daiquiri, a tasty and sensual cocktail, was written in the middle of the magical encounter of two different worlds, when the ‘ambassadors of pleasure’ exchanged the transparency of the tobacco scrolls with the hot sweetness of sugarcane and, of course, their favorite son, rum, the real Caribbean cyclone.
In 1896, nearby Santiago de Cuba, in the Daiquiri Zone, there was an iron mine where an American engineer, named Jennings Cox, who became well-known for being the father of the Daiquiri cocktail. When gin was over, rum was the drink that people could easily get in that area. One day, when a captain from the Cuban Liberation Army visited the manager of the iron mine, after long walks and talks, they agreed about the need of having a fresh drink. Engineer Cox mixed the components available at that occasion, stirring rum with lemon juice and sugar, for making the drink softer. By this way, he created a kind of ‘rum sour’.
At the beginning, this cocktail did not have any name. It was an Italian engineer, Giacomo Pagliuchi -Cox’s coworker- who baptized him with the name of "daiquiri", honoring the mines where they worked.
Both engineers went to the bar of the former hotel ‘Venus’, in Santiago de Cuba, known as American Bar. There, they told the bartender about the cocktail, and he began to prepare the Daiquiri immediately for the bar costumers.
This drink gained international reputation some years later, in 1909, when Admiral Lucius W. Johnson, who had tasted the drink in Cuba, took it to the ‘Army and Navy Club’, in Washington.
The cocktail was popular in Santiago de Cuba. Emilio González (Maragato) -a bartender of Spanish descent who worked at the hotel ‘Florida’, in Old Havana- found this cocktail during a visit to Santiago and he took it to Havana. He made daiquiri popular in that city, and he introduced it to his friend Constantino Ribalaigua Vert (known as Constante), who was the owner of ‘El Floridita’ by that time. He became enthusiastic and began to transform the cocktail, creating several combinations until he finally got the Daiquiri Frappe.
At the beginning of the 19th century, there was a typical canteen, known as ‘La Piña de Plata’, where people could taste traditional drinks and which always enjoyed a great acceptance, mainly due to its strategic location, near the Albear’s Square, in Old Havana.
A hundred years later, a curious anecdote transforms the history of that establishment. In 1915, Serafín Parera Coll, a Catalan emigrant who had made fortune in Mexico, was returning to Spain. When he arrived at the port of Havana, he got sick, and he could not continue his journey. A little time later he died in the Cuban capital. The legacy of the legendary emigrant was received by his nephews, and the oldest of them, Narciso Sala Parera (1879-1953), was the one chosen to manage the unexpected family fortune, relatively important at those times.
Thus, in 1918, ‘La Piña de Plata’ was acquired by the Sala Parera brothers. This canteen was called ‘El Café’ by the Sala family, and a few years later, it was renamed as ‘Café Restaurante La Florida’. The building was rebuilt in 1989 according to the plans of its original architecture, with a well-known solid wood mahogany bar made in the 1920s.
Among his employees, there was a young man from Lloret de Mar –the Sala family’s native city- named Constante Ribalaigua Vert, who started to work as an apprentice and he finally became the main bartender, focused on the preparation of the drinks for all the customers, who were more and more numerous.
Those who went to the ‘Florida’ Bar, well-known later as ‘El Floridita’, frequently asked Constante to prepare a daiquiri, cocktail which acquired lots of acceptance and prestige. ‘El Floridita’ is known as "the cradle of daiquiri", because it was the place where this cocktail was created, combining the originals ingredients in a specific recipe.
An outstanding visitor of the bar, Ernest Hemingway (1889-1961) -one of the regular customers of the establishment-, mentioned daiquiri cocktail in some of his novels, stating he often visited ‘El Floridita’, which was opened in 1817 with the name of ‘La Piña de Plata’, and there he wetted his literary work with that colorful cocktail.
In 1935, ‘El Floridita’ was sold and, until its nationalization by the Cuban government in the decade of 1960, Constante Ribalaigua Vert and his heirs were the main shareholders.
Many movie stars, intellectuals and politicians still visit Cuba and ‘El Floridita’ to taste Daiquiri. We cannot avoid mentioning, first of all, the Winner of Nobel Literature Prize Ernest Hemingway, who drank this fabulous cocktail every day and who said: "This drink cannot be better, or even similar, anywhere in the world." This writer occupied the same seat in that bar for 20 years. Nowadays, every visitor can find a bronze statue, which represents him and a fresh Daiquiri on the ‘Hemingway fashion’, with double measure of rum, without sugar, adding some grapefruit juice, the juice of half a lemon and ice, with half teaspoon of maraschino.
Analyzing the historical significance of this cocktail for Cuba, its national and international popularity over the years, and closely observing recent trends and new global developments of classic cocktails -within which daiquiri has been enriched with new elements of the mixology, giving to it some new reformed variations- it has been chosen as the National Cocktail of Cuba.