Tuesday, June 16, 2015

El Floridita One of the Fun Bars in Old Havana

     When I'm in Havana, there are two really fun bars that I like visiting.  The El Floridita and  Sloppy Joe's.   Both of these bars are steeped with history and famous clientele.   The music, food and cocktails at both of these bars will bring you back again and again.   This is the first of two articles about them.  Today's is about the El Floridita.

     The venerable El Floridita first opened its doors in 1817 as “La Piña de Plata”, silver Pineapple to us Americans.  In 1914, Constantino Ribalaigua Vert was hired as a barman, Constante, as he was known by the patrons became bought the  El Floridita in 1918.    Constante is credited with inventing the frozen daiquiri in the early 1930s.    Constante made use of a snow cone type ice shaver and a mixer that you would see in an ice cream shoppe to make milkshakes to create these wonderful frozen masterpieces.   Today, El Floridita still boasts the motto, “la cuna del daiquiri” or Cradle of the Daiquiri.

     Famous customers share a history with El Floridita.  Ernest Hemingway was a common fixture at the bar.  It is a short walk from the Hotel Ambos Mundos where Hemingway maintained a room from 1932–1939.   Hemingway’s children also noted that in the early 1940s Hemingway and his wife, Martha Gellhorn, frequently drove from their house outside Havana, Finca la Vigía to El Floridita for cocktails.  Hemingway’s history at the bar is preserved by a life-size bronze statue sculpted by the Cuban artist José Villa Soberón that sits in “Papa’s” favorite seat.

     The establishment was frequented by many generations of Cuban and foreign intellectuals and artists. Ezra Pound, John Dos Passos and Graham Greene, the British novelist who wrote Our Man in Havana, were also frequent customers.  Movie stars like Spencer Tracy, Errol Flynn and Marlena Dietrich were regular patrons of the famed watering hole as well.