The origin of the Cuban national cocktail started as an interlude within the meeting of two different worlds, when sugar cane and rum were already sponsoring a concept throughout the Caribbean.
In the year 1896, near Santiago de Cuba, in the Daiquirí Zone, there was an iron mine where the American engineer Jennings Cox worked. In those days, everytime they were out of gin, rum was the drink of choice.
Once, a Captain of the Liberating Army visited the manager in his mines. After long walks and talks, they agreed on the urgency of a cold drink, so they stirred and shaked what they had nearby: rum with some lemon juice and sugar, to give a moderate respite to the palate in such a hot tropical climate.
How it all came to happen?
At first, this cocktail did not have a proper name. It was an Italian engineer and Cox's colleague named Giacomo Pagliuchi who named it "daiquiri", after the mines where his friend worked. One night would be enough to feed madness or sponsor a drink. They brought the idea to the bar of the defunct Hotel Venus in Santiago de Cuba, known as Bar Americano.
This drink would gain international prestige a few years later, in 1909, when Admiral Lucius W. Johnson, who had tasted the cocktail in Cuba, took it to the Army and Navy Club in Washington.
The cocktail was popular in Santiago de Cuba. It was Emilio González (Maragato), a Spanish bartender who worked at the Florida hotel in Old Havana, who brought it to the capital; he made it popular and took it to his friend Constantino Ribalaigua, who was the owner of the Floridita Bar.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century, there was a typical pub where traditional drinks were served and that always had a great acceptance, due in part to its strategic location near the Plaza de Albear in the area known as Old Havana, named La Piña de Plata.
One hundred years would bring changes from Catalonia. In 1915, Serafín Parera Coll, a Catalan emigrant who had made his fortune in Mexico, returned to Spain. Upon his arrival at the port of Havana he felt sick and was unable to continue the journey. Later he died in the Cuban capital, being the first member of the Sala family. The inheritance of the legendary emigrant passed to his nephews, the eldest of whom, Narciso Sala Parera (1879-1953), was responsible for the administration of the family fortune.
Inheritances, names and bars
Thus, in 1918, La Piña de Plata became property of the Sala Parera brothers. Years later, El Café, as it was called in the Sala family, was renamed Café Restaurante La Florida. The building was rebuilt in 1989 following the plans of its original architecture, with a solid mahogany wooden bar made in the twenties of the last century.
Among his employees was a young man from Lloret de Mar -hometown of the Sala family- named Constante Ribalaigua Vert, who went from apprentice to taking exclusive care of the bar and, in particular, to the preparation of drinks for the customers, which were increasingly numerous.
Those who came to the Florida Bar, now Floridita, frequently requested for a daiquirí. Floridita is known as "the cradle of daiquirí", being the place where this cocktail was created as an specific recipe from basic ingredients.
The Nobel literature laureate Ernest Hemingway (1889–1961), one of the house's regulars, mentions the daiquirí cocktail in the lines of his novels, where he says he was a regular at the bar called La Floridita, which opened in 1817 under the name of La Piña de Plata.
The author ofThe Old Man and the Seaoccupied for 20 years the same chair on the bar, at the same place where today a representation of himself made in bronze waits for a fresh Daiquirí with his own recipe: double measure of rum, without sugar, some grapefruit juice and half a lemon, crushed ice and half a teaspoon of marraschino.
In 1935, El Floridita's owners changed and, until its nationalization in the 1960s, Constante Ribalaiagua Vert and his heirs were the majority partners.
Due to the historical significance that this cocktail has for the country, its national and international popularity, its cultural roots, recent trends and development in the world of classic cocktails it has been selected as the National Cocktail of Cuba.
On July 19, World Daiquirí Day is celebrated, since the Cuban Association of Bartenders declared this cocktail as our country's representative in the International Bartender Association's portfolio of classic cocktails.