Mojitos at La Bodeguita del Medio

Mojitos at La Bodeguita del Medio

My mojito in La Bodeguita, My daiquiri in El Floridita

-Ernest Hemingway

The Cathedral plaza is lively. Creole women and men with fat cigars walk around. Fortunes are told and with a flash of black and white, drinks and lunch are served. Round the corner, the street is dancing, the red, blue and white flag is swaying, people salsa, a hand grabs my hand and I salsa.

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La Bodeguita del Medio, Mojitos, Cohibas, musicians. Squiggles and signatures, faces press against the wooden bars.

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So many people, such a small space. Mint leaves are torn, limes are squeezed. It all spills out, spills out outside.

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La Bodeguita lays claim to being the birthplace of the Mojito cocktail, prepared in the bar since its opening in 1942. The rooms are full of frames, photos and the walls are covered by signatures including some  of the bars famous clientele, Ernest Hemingway and Pablo Neruda. The drinks were expensive and slightly watery ($7). It is very touristy, but I would recommend walking in and having a quick look inside to see the decoration, if not a cheeky cocktail on your way back to your hotel from Cathedral Plaza.

 

Sumptuous Lunch at El Floridita

Sumptuous Lunch at El Floridita

The interior of the restaurant was exquisite. Murals adorn the walls, velvet curtains hang heavily, separating the dinners from the noisy hustle and bustle of the El Floridita bar where musicians play and frozen Daiquiris are served. A great way to relax and sample the best of Cuba.Magnum Champagne bottles are lined up, the walls are adorned with murals. The decor is very 1950s, very seductive, very luxurious. The whole experience was wonderful and I would definitely recommend it.

The service was incredible. I am going to be like a child and talk about my favorite part of the meal, the dessert, first. Order the frozen Alaska and you will get a flambe display that you will never forget. At least I never will. The waiter wheels in a table with paraphernalia, liquors, a frying pan and stove. The signal is given and someone dims the lights. Your pudding is turned into a show for all the dinners to enjoy, but remember the most important thing, that only you will get to eat it! The show last around 5-10 minutes and the pudding is only $6. The fruit platter can also be flambeed if you are going for a lighter end to the very filling meal.

We ordered some of the lighter, smaller meals that were on offer. That evening we were preparing for the New Year’s Eve 7 course dinner banquet held in the Cathedral plaza. The presentation was lovely, the seafood was plentiful, although could have been a bit fresher. The bar was full but the restaurant was fairly empty so we had ample time and space to enjoy the surroundings and the atmosphere.

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See also Frozen Daiquiris at El Floridita for more pictures and information on the front bar

Frozen Daiquiris at El Floridita

Frozen Daiquiris at El Floridita

DSC_0912Old Hemingway, larger than life, props up the ornamental bar. It is said that it was he who invented the frozen Daiquiris which are now served here at the bar El Floridita– half jiggers of white rum, juice of two limes and half a grapefruit, six drops of maraschino liqueur, without sugar, served frozen. Whether this is fact, myth or legend, there is no doubting that Hemingway had a special penchant for life’s real pleasures and so it is no surprise that he and his wife drove into town specially to drink cocktails at El Floridita. The Daiquiris are most definitely the best ones in town.

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DSC_0914Much of the atmosphere of the 1940s and 1950s is still preserved, with the red coats of the bartenders matching the Regency style decoration that dates from the 1950s. The front of the bar is crowded and lively. Enjoy the live band and the vibrant atmosphere. A trip here is a must for all cocktail lovers.

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If however the front is too packed out or noisy, a great option is to enjoy a seafood meal in the El Floridita restaurant part.The music and the atmosphere can still be enjoyed here, but the air is cooler and it is far less busy.

See Sumptuous lunch at El Floridita for more information on the restaurant and pictures

Hemingway’s Cuba- The Old Man and the Sea

Hemingway’s Cuba- The Old Man and the Sea

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At the little fishing village, I see no boats and I see no fishing. They say it used to be a hub, a hive of activity but now the waters are mostly fished out. Cojimar, an abandoned lover, wild with loss and stricken with grief. A bronze bust is erect, was erected and still stands, heavily upon white talc pillars.  One harsh storm and it might all get swept out to sea. The wooden shacks rustle and our hair blows wildly in the wind. A lone fort grows out of the sea. Writing, at its best, is a lonely life and if a man is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.

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Long were the days when the old leathery man captained and the white haired man with blue eyes walked up the hill and ate his catch in a room filled with cigar smoke and laughter. The sea doesn’t remember, it is cold.’I have never seen or heard of such a fish. But I must kill him. I am glad we do not have to try to kill the stars.’ But I am not cold. I will indulge Cojimar and I will see the flowers that blossom in the rocky gardens and the trees which grow in the yards of the old grand buildings and I will see him. I will see the Old Man and the Sea.

Hemingway’s Cuba, Cuba’s Hemingway

 A great way to visit the little town of Cojimar is to go to tourist office at the Hotel Seville. They will organize a private taxi for you from the Hotel and will drop you off at Cojimar. There the taxi will wait for you whilst you wander around. We did this on our first morning in Havana. It is a good way to get a sense of Havana’s location and to get to see the sea and surrounding towns. Cojimar is very small and its influence and literary significance should be borne in mind – it is not itself particularly impressive.  On our journey back the taxi took us to a great lookout point, the Parque Morro y Cabana (an extra 2cuc), one of Cuba’s most important historical sites- a complex made up of forts and battlements across the Harbor Channel. The whole trip cost around 25 cuc. However, if you only have only a short time in Havana, I would not recommend that you do this trip.

The Old Man and the Sea is a novel written by the American author Ernest Hemingway in 1951 and published in 1952. The novel is based on the fishing village of Cojimar and it is said that the captain of Hemingway’s own boat Pillar, was the inspiration behind his main protagonist. This was the last major work of fiction to be produced by Hemingway and published in his lifetime. It was awarded the Pullitzer Prize for Fiction in 1953 and was cited by the Nobel Committee as contributing to the awarding of the Nobel Prize in Literature to Hemingway in 1954.