DESPITE the growing popularity of cocktails, many Y-chromosome-carrying homo sapiens still consider mixed drinks too effeminate for public consumption. It wasn’t always thus. Just read the stories of Ernest Hemingway: “Papa”, in his life and in his deeply autobiographical writing, makes modern models of masculinity look like 17th century foppishness. But the good work of Hemingway & Co was eclipsed by the dark ages of the 1970s and 1980s, when cocktails contained lashings of cream and mini umbrellas performing no discernible function.
The spirits of Hemingway were recently reawakened at 69 Colebrooke Row, home to the enterprising Tony Conigliaro, during one of the bar’s regular masterclasses. We were whisked through many of Papa’s favourite cocktails, including some of the greats such as Death in the Afternoon and the Jack Rose. But for anyone looking to combine fine drinks with Papa’s fine literature, the cocktail of choice has to be the daiquiri.
Hemingway got a taste for daiquiris in Cuba’s most famous bar, La Floridita, and aficionados of the great man have been queuing to sit and drink next to a bronze statue of the man ever since. While living in Havana for a few months, I meant to pop in for a drink but it was always just a little bit too busy. Certainly, Hemingway would have struggled to find the peace it afforded him to read and write in the 1950s.
I recently had to explain this omission to Alejandro Bolivar, El Floridita’s head bartender, when he was in London for a two-week residency at Asia de Cuba. He quickly forgave me and talked at length about nothing and everything – his career jump from engineering to bartending, his morning routine of swimming and yoga, his passion for cigars – while trying to recreate the magic of La Floridita behind an unfamiliar bar. Blender-made daiquiris followed. The current fashion is to look down on the use of blenders in cocktails, though Alejandro’s daiquiris were as good as I’ve ever tasted.
Like most of his cocktails, Hemingway liked his daiquiris strong and without sugar. According to AE Hotchner’s biography of his friend of 15 years, Hemingway would drink his daiquiri, named the Papa Doble, blended with 90ml of rum, six dashes of maraschino liqueur, the juice of two limes and half a grapefruit. You won’t ever be served this in a bar. Pouring 90ml of rum into a cocktail is expensive and it would knock most people out of the park.
A more balanced recipe comes from the masterclass at 69 Colebrooke Row, but it’s the kind of drink you should experiment with. Blended or shaken, balanced or blinding, the simple Daiquiri makes a potent case for cocktail drinking.
■ 50ml Havana 3yr
■ 20ml lime juice
■ 10ml gomme
• Shake ingredients long and hard
• Double strain into a large coupette
• Garnish with a lime wedge