When It's _Cocktail Time_ In Cuba (1928)
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WHEN IT'S _COCKTAIL TIME_ IN CUBA
by Basil Woon
New York: Horace Liveright: 1928
Cuba during the U.S. Prohibition era! Drinks! Cigars! Women! "Rum,
Roulette & Racing." Boy, it sure brings back memories.
Wait a minute--I was never in Cuba in the 1920s!
This book is a good read, for the cocktails and more. The NYPL edition is
falling apart, with many loose pages.
Pg. 33--Prohibition in the United States may have added to the number of
"American" bars, but the corner _bodega_ has always flourished. A _bodega_
is part grocery, part tobacco-shop, and part saloon. Generally it is a
restaurant as well.
Pg. 38--The earnest drinkers of Havana have certain preferences in the way of
refreshments. The most popular and most healthful drink is called _daiquiri_
and is merely bacardi with lime-juice, shaken up until the shaker is covered
The original cane-planters of Cuba and Louisiana had a drink which they
made out of rum and squeezed limes, ice, a dash of grenadine, and
siphon-water. It was drunk out of tall frosted glasses and was called
Planter's Punch was the usual drink of the Cuban Americans, but down in
Santiago where a group used to meet in the Venus bar every morning at eight
o'clock it was modified to exclude the grenadine and siphon-water, and was
made in a shaker. Instead of Jamaica rum the pure Cuban bacardi, distilled
in (Pg. 39--ed.) Santiago from molasses, was used. The boys used to have
three or four every morning.
Most of them worked in the Daiquiri mines, the superintendent of which was
a gentleman named Cox--Jennings Cox. One morning in the Venus Cox said:
"Boys, we've been drinking this delicious little drink for some time, but
we've never named it. Let's christen it now!"
The boys milled around a bit and finally Cox said: "I'll tell you what,
lads--we all work at Daiquiri and we all drank this drink first there. Let's
call it a _daiquiri_!"
The _daiquiri_ is now the best-known drink in Cuba. This recipe for the
real _daiquiri_ was given me by Facundo Bacardi and confirmed by one of the
men who was present at the christening: half one lime, squeezed onto one
teaspoonful of sugar; pour in one whiskey-glassful of bacardi; plenty of ice;
shake until shaker is thoroughly frosted outside. Meanwhile, chill a tall
wine-glass of the kind known as _flute_, fill it with shaven ice, and pour in
the mixture. Must be drunk frozen or is not good. The "bacardi cocktail"
and pronounced "bacARdi," common in New York and Europe, is unknown in Cuba.
The proper pronunciation of the name "Bacardi" stressed the last syllable.
Later on, in Santiago, we shall see how the rum is made.
(No, we won't. Pg. 40--ed.)
The two other cocktails mostly in demand in Havana are the _presidente_
and the _Mary Pickford_. The _presidente_ is made with half bacardi and half
French vermouth, with a dash of either curacoa or grenadine. It is the
aristocrat of cocktails and is the one preferred by the better class of
Cuban. The _Mary Pickford_ (OED?--ed.), invented during a visit to Havana of
the screen favorite by Fred Kaufman, is two-thirds pineapple-juice and
one-third bacardi, with a dash of grenadine. Both cocktails are sweetish and
should be well shaken. The pineapple juice must be fresh-squeezed.
Pg. 43--The lucky part came when the Havana city government some years ago
appointed a "sanitary commission" to inquire into the cleanliness of the
_bodegas_. The less said about the actual workings of this commission the
better. But it happened that "Pop" Roberds, proprietor of the Havana
_Evening News_, and Joe were having a little squabble about this time over a
matter of advertising. "Pop" (Pg. 44-ed.) thought Joe should advertise with
him, and Joe thought differently about it. "Pop," being an old-style
newspaper man, very properly thought himself affronted, and forthwith wrote
an editorial in which he suggested to the Sanitary Commission that they might
with profit extend their investigations to include "a place on Zuletta Street
which should be called 'Sloppy' Joe's." The name caught on almost at once,
and Joe, although privately peeved at "Pop," realized that he had a good
thing. He enlarged his place, and at a moment when drinks in Havana were
costing seventy-five cents apiece (it was just afte
r the Volstead Act became operative in the United States), suddenly cut the
price in half. The resultant business forced him to enlarge his place again.
"Sloppy Joe's" became a byword and Joe used the slogan on his saloon sign
and in his advertising. Distinguished writers from New York and further
afield wrote about the place and money came in so fast that Joe again
enlarged. He now employs eleven bartenders. He advertises in _The Evening
News_ and "Pop" Roberds is a regular client. The place is big, noisy, has an
almost exclusively tourist trade, and is frequented for refreshments after
the theater. It has little really Cuban about it and might before the war
have been on Third Avenue, New York.
("Sloppy Joe" is also the name of a sandwich--ed.)
Pg. 49--Slim young senoritas, whose fathers are literally "sugar daddies,"
are very alluring in their Paris frocks.
Pg. 57--Cocoanuts, mangos, bananas and mameys (OED?--ed.)(a sort of
tough-skinned apricot grow wild, in such profusion that they are more a
nuisance than a blessing.
Pg. 126--THE CASINO: "WHERE THEY GET YOU COMIN' AN' GOIN' AN' MAKE YOU LIKE
Pg. 144--..."got religion."
Pg. 162--...filled with _chulos_--Cuban equivalent to the European _gigolo_.
Pg. 175--..."what's the big i-dear."
Pg. 182--..."life of the party."
Pg. 183--Takes his "Cuba Libre"* only occasionally. (...)
*_Cuba Libre_: a highball contrived of coca-cola and bacardi rum.
(OED has an 1898 "Cuba Libre" citation of "water and brown sugar," then skips
Pg. 222--..."all the comforts of home."
Pg. 246--It was at the Venus, you will remember, that Jennings S. Cox and
others baptized the _daiquiri_ cocktail.
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