195th ANNIVERSARY OF THE FLORIDITA
Home of the totally Cuba Daiquiri
BY JUAN DIEGO NUSA
of the most emblematic features of the Cuban tourism
industry, the legendary Floridita bar-restaurant,
the home of Daiquiri cocktails, is celebrating its
195th anniversary. This legendary status is in part
derived from its patronage by the eminent U.S.
novelist Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961).
The TripAdvisor website places the Floridita
among the top 27 establishments of its
kind in the world, while the UK
Drinks International magazine places
it among the top 50 bars.
once again seated
at the bar of his favorite Havana locale,
with a Daiquiri in front of him.
True to the philosophy of
Constantino Ribalaigua y Vert, the
bar offers 17 different Daiquiri cocktails,
unique to the Floridita.
Spaniard Enrique Gutiérrez (enjoying
a Daiquiri mulata in the photo) believes
that there isn’t anywhere like the
Floridita in the world.
PHOTOS: YAIMÍ RAVELO
Located at one of Havana’s most
cosmopolitan and lively intersections, the
establishment’s history began when an astute Spanish
trader opened a small restaurant called the Piña de
Plata on the central corner of Obispo and O’Reilly,
in the Montserrate barrio of Old Havana. The date:
July 6, 1817.
Andrés Arencibia Mohar, the
Floridita’s current director, told Granma
International that its site close to one of the
entries to the walled city of Havana made it an
obligatory stopping point for many passersby, who
quenched their thirst with horchatas
accompanied by sandwiches. "However, the use of ice
became more widespread in Havana and mixers with
brandy, rum… the cocktail had arrived."
With its immediate success and
popularity, La Piña de Plata expanded into an
adjoining building (with the addition of a beautiful
long mahogany bar, estimated to be more than 115
years old), reaching its current entrance on Bélgica
Avenue (formerly Montserrate) and Obispo.
The Piña de Plata was renamed La
Florida and its clientele gradually began to
identify it as the Floridita. The locale has
maintained its Regency style décor since the 1950’s,
with an elegance which seems fragile and robust at
the same time, much sobriety and exceptional
marquetry and taste.
In 1914, Constantino Ribalaigua y
Vert, a Spaniard of Catalan origin (1888-1952),
arrived in Havana to seek his fortune. Like many of
his compatriots, Constantino remained in Cuba,
captivated by the Caribbean. And, in his case, he
made history. Four years later, he became the owner
of the Floridita, in which he had worked as a
The Catalan was intelligent and knew
that his establishment had to be different from the
rest. He knew its bar secrets and rapidly found the
solution. He prepared the delectable Daiquiri, very
popular in the eastern region of Cuba, in a blender.
From the United States he brought the only ice
breaker to be found in Cuba, thus highlighting his
creation: the Daiquiri Floridita. He was a maestro
in combining flavors. He mixed an ounce and a half
of rum, a teaspoon of sugar, the juice of half a
Cuban lime and five drops of maraschino and served
it in a wide-brimmed glass. It was a miracle! The
Daiquiri Floridita, a genuine Cuban symbol from that
The establishment soon became known
as the Daiquiri Cathedral and Constantino Ribalaigua
– Constante the barman, as the Cubans called him –
the king of cocktail makers, for having extended the
refreshing drink throughout the world.
Arencibia Mohar said that cocktails
as famed as the Daiquiri Havana Special have emerged
from the hands of his bartenders, keeping alive a
very particular tradition. The current cocktail menu
contains 17 types through the establishment.
The Floridita’s rich history
contains anecdotes of what Havana was and is, its
most select visiting figures in the world of culture,
arts, politics and social life who have enjoyed its
excellent cocktails and seafood dishes, prepared by
master chefs skilled in international and Cuban
"In 1953, Esquire magazine
recognized the Floridita as one of the seven most
famous bars in the world, together with the San
Francisco Pied Piper Bar, the Paris and London Ritz,
Raffles in Singapore, Club 21's in New York and the
Shelbourne Hotel Bar in Dublin. In 1992, it won the
Best Five Star Diamond Award given by the American
Academy of Gastronomic Science as the King of
Daiquiri and the most representative restaurant
specializing in seafood," Arencibia Mohar noted.
"But there is one character in all
of this history who cannot be overlooked, without
him, the Daiquiri would not be what it is today. I’m
referring to the mark left by Ernest Hemingway, the
U.S. writer and journalist, one of the principal
novelists and short story writers of the 20th
century, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1953, and the
Nobel Prize for Literature the following year.
The celebrated phrase, "My Mojito in
the Bodeguita, my Daiquiri in the Floridita," is
attributed to Hemingway, one of the establishment’s
most assiduous clients.
The boom in cocktails and their
internationalization is due to Hemingway, given that
he was a man with many friendships in the world and
American show business and acted as a magnet and
guide, thus making the Floridita one of the most
famous bars and the center of his long stays and
literary circles in Cuba.
After Hemingway and with him,
figures of the period such as the Dukes of Windsor,
Gene Tunney, Jean Paul Sartre, Gary Cooper,
Dominguín, Tennessee Williams, Charles Scribner,
Spencer Tracy, Rocky Marciano, Marlene Dietrich, Ava
Gardner, Samuel Elliot Morrison, Buck Lanham,
Herbert Matthews and Errol Flynn.
The author of For Whom The Bell
Tolls had his own cocktail, the Daiquiri
Hemingway "Papa" Special: double rum, without sugar,
the juice of half a lime, a few drops of grapefruit
juice, crowned with frappe and half a teaspoon of
The enduring presence of the author
of Farewell to Arms can be felt from the
entrance to the bar, due to the work of two Cuban
artists. José Villa Soberón’s life-size bronze
sculpture of Hemingway seated at the bar, made in
2003, and a bust sculpted by Fernando Boada in 1954
flank the first stool to the left of the bar, where
the novelist liked to sit in his short pants and
sandals for his favorite drink, the Papa Doble
The celebrities of yesteryear have
been joined by contemporary ones: Paco Rabanne,
Joaquín Sabina, Silvio Rodríguez, Javier Sotomayor,
Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss, Matt Dillon, Danny Glover,
Jack Nicholson, Giorgio Armani, Ornella Muti, Alicia
Alonso, Gianni Mina, Jean Michael Jarre, Fito Páez,
Cecilia Roth, Francis Ford Coppola and Jean Paul
Belmondo, besides the thousands of tourists who have
visited Hemingway’s second home in Havana.
Granma International’s visit
surprisingly coincided with that of Spaniard Enrique
Gutiérrez, a legendary cocktail maestro aged 83
years, runner up in the World Championship in
Argentina in 1964, World champion in Palma de
Mallorca in 1967 and European champion in 1981. And
his first maestro was precisely a book containing
the secrets of Daiquiri and other cocktails from the
Floridita, which has been preserved as an exclusive
heritage despite the passing of time.
He had never been in Cuba and was
paying his dues en route to Panama. And he couldn’t
have chosen a better moment to do so.
"I knew from reference about the
Floridita, having been told that it is the home of
the Daiquiri, and what this bar is. And it’s true,
there isn’t anywhere like it in the world, I had to
visit it," he added, seated with his wife Guadalupe
Its memorable moments are many, like
the one related by Ariel Valdés Vervía, restaurant
captain for 15 years, who served former U.S.
President James Carter, Nobel Peace Prize laureate,
when he visited the Floridita in 2002 and 2011. The
bar is considered by the TripAdvisor website as
among the 27 top establishments of its kind in the
world, and among the top 50 bars by the British
Drinks International magazine.
Its 55 staff, including maitre
sommelier Orlando Blanco, waitresses Marisol
Rodríguez Rigau and Maidelín Matos, bartenders Abel
Viera Oliva and Manuel Carbajo Aguiar, confirm that
one can always find a human warmth in the Floridita,
an atmosphere which makes visitors feels special,.
Somewhere to discover the pleasure of taste in food
and drinks, and to be captivated like many by the
long years of service in this majestic place, home
of the totally Cuban Daiquiri.