Friday, 16 August 2013

The Mojito Awards, Cuba

I’ve spent the last three weeks in Cuba. 

Amongst other things, I drank rather a lot of rum, more rum in fact than I have perhaps drunk in the last thirty years. I have now acquired something of a taste for el ron. Perhaps reacquired is more accurate, as I seem to recall our poison of choice was rum and coke when I was a teenager, or Cuba Libre, made with the ubiquitous Havana Club, as it is more romantically called these days. Just to clarify, Bacardi now comes from the Dominican Republic, as one glance at its glass-shattered, yet still beautiful, Art Deco former office building in central Havana will attest.

But enough history, on with the awards: the good, bad and ugly of Cuban Mojito making based on my extensive research.

Starting with the worst Mojito in Cuba – unequivocally this honour goes to La Bodeguita del Medio in Havana Vieja for the singular lack of attention to details like sugar. Without doubt this was the sourest and most small-measured meanie of cocktail in Cuba. The bar is Hemingway’s former watering hole and is a hideous tourist trap (so is El Floridita where he drank Daiquiris – you have been warned) and one can only assume that as a result they simply don’t give a damn. That’ll be something like six of your convertible pesos por favor (about five euros – happy hour price in Paris) and here’s some shit we mixed earlier.

Luckily it’s all uphill from here. The best Mojito in Cuba prize goes to Shakey Shakey Wakey Wakey in Trinidad for the perfect and caringly made mixture of sugar, lemon, expertly bashed mint, ice, rum, fizzy water and Angostura bitters, served by the nicest man in Cuba. We loved him and his super paladar (privately run restaurant to you). Go there. Drink lots. It’s cheap too (two pesos fifty – about two euros).

But wait, there’s more – the strongest Mojito in Cuba is made on the idyllic white sand beaches of Cayo Leviso, where at three pesos a pop you are pretty much guaranteed at least a double that is so strong you have to top up the water ‘because you are on your holidays.’  Marvellous. 

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