El Floridita Turns 195
By: Roberto F. Campos
With a history linked to American novelist Ernest Hemingway, El Floridita restaurant-bar is turning 195 years old and continues to captivate the attention of both its clients and the most relevant culinary magazines.
From where he sat at the bar, holding a daiquirí, it seems as if American novelist Ernest Hemingway had foreseen how famous the Floridita Bar would become. As the Floridita turns 195, the presence of the author of For Whom the Bell Tolls seems to come alive in that same spot at the bar, through a statue, sculpted by Cuban artist José Villa Soberón.
However, the Cuban artist's statue is not the only thing that attracts visitors to El Floridita. They tend to be lured by all of its offerings, and by the outstanding service provided by the staff. There are delicious dishes such as the Butterfly Lobster and the Papa and Mary, and of course, there is the Daiquirí.
The Daiquirí (a mixture of rum, lemon, sugar and crushed ice) is more than enough reason to sit at the bar. Hemingway used to drink his own version, called a Papa Double, with more rum and no sugar. He used to stand at the bar in shorts and sandals, ready to drink many Papa Doubles. History tells that when he did not have enough time to finish his drinks, he would take glasses filled with the drink home, to his Finca Vigía estate.
El Floridita was also the usual hangout in the 1950's for stars like Errol Flynn, Spencer Tracy, Gary Cooper, Ava Gardner, Marlene Dietrich and countless other Cuban and foreign figures. El Floridita was also listed on Esquire Magazine's 1943 list of the Seven Best Bars in the World, and it received the Best Star Diamond Award in 1992, from the United States Academy of Gastronomic Sciences, as the King of Daiquirí and for being the most representative seafood restaurant.
The bar is the entrance to the restaurant, predominantly red, characterized by its decor and the waiters' uniforms. Its dishes are mainly prepared with seafood and fish, although all types of Cuban cuisine is included on the menu.
However, the bar tends to be the focus of attention, with trained bartenders who are ready to prepare any one of some 400 local and international cocktails, with impressive celerity.
The Floridita sits on the corner of Obispo and Montserrate streets in a busy area of Habana Vieja, in the same place where it opened in 1817, as La Piña de Plata (The Silver Pineapple), which is now the name of a neighboring business in the same building.
Andrés Arencibia, the current manager of the bar-restaurant, explained that a broad program of anniversary activities were held throughout the month of July. A special one took place on July 21, Hemingway's birthday, and featured an unforgettable “Giant Daiquirí”.
Celebrations also included the fourth edition of the King of Daiquirí Award, a competition for professional bartenders from Havana and other parts of Cuba.
Today, El Floridita has a new menu for its restaurants, but it will always respect the traditional Cuban recipes and the personal tastes of its regular customers. Open every day from 11:30 am to midnight, its bar has space for 90 people, and the restaurant, which opens at noon, can accommodate 60 customers.
House Specialty. Butterfly Lobster
Use whole cooked lobster tail. Hold the lobster tail with the top side facing upward. Using kitchen shears, cut a line through the top of the shell all the way to the base of the tail. Using your fingers, gently separate the entire lobster meat from the lobster shell, leaving it attached to the tail. Lightly salt and pepper, and grill until obtaining a golden colour. Dice it and