A Temple for Rum
By James Bridge Photos: Jorge Pérez
On the port road right in front of Havana's harbour, there is an ancient mansion, the second biggest in the Cuban capital, which opens its doors to welcome visitors from around the world. It once belonged to Counts and Bishops, consuls and ship owners, lawyers, scientists, and intellectuals until March 30, 2000 when it became the Havana Club Rum Museum.
The mansion is a popular place for those who want to learn about the history of Cuba's exquisite liquor which was baptized years ago by the Cuban intellectual, Fernando G. Campoamor, as "sugarcane's joyful son." And it is precisely sugarcane's sweet juice, called guarapo, which is one of the main ingredients in the Museum's famous cocktail, the Guarabana. A refreshing sip of a Guarabana is the initial toast for all visitors.
The tour starts with a ringing of a bell and proceeds through spacious rooms, past a cooper shop showing how oak barrels are made, antique equipment, a steam locomotive, and a showcase displaying the entire process of the manufacture of this much coveted drink.
The museum also offers excellent classes in Cuban dancing, a tasting of many varieties of rum with detailed explanations of each one, and the discovery of the universal combination of rum and a cigar, both 100% Cuban. This is what makes this tour unforgettable, provided the visitor doesn't over do it and forgets everything that they learned there.
The Museum also houses an art gallery which exhibits paintings, drawings, and photographs of renowned Cuban artists.
The tour guides can provide detailed explanations in English, French, German, Italian, and, of course, Spanish so that everyone can understand the mystery of how the most famous rum in Cuba, and one of the best in the world, is made. Since its opening in March 2000, Cubatur, Cubanacan and Gaviotatour travel agencies have brought more than 700,000 visitors to the Havana Club Rum Museum.
The tour becomes more and enjoyable and pleasant with good Cuban music led by the traditional septet, Pino y su Versón.
Ah! And to take home with you, here's the Guarabana recipe above, exclusive from the Havana Club Rum Museum.