The history of the most famous restaurants in Cuba

Ernest Hemingway started the story: he wrote in English on one of the walls of La Bodeguita del Medio: “My mojito in La Bodeguita, My daiquiri in El Floridita”. Since then, everyone who visits Old Havana marks a must visit to these two emblematic places.

Two miracles arise between music and alcohol: the mojito and the daiquirí. The first, a compound of rum, sugar (or sugar syrup), lime, mint or mint and mineralized water; and the second, a unique blend of flavors: an ounce and a half of rum, a teaspoon of sugar, the juice of half a Cuban green lemon and five drops of maraschino served in a chilled wide-mouthed glass with frappe ice.

From pirates to immigrants

The making of the first mojito is documented at the end of the 16th century, attributing the achievement to the famous pirate Sir Richard Drake, Captain Sir’s subordinate. Francis Drake (privateer of the English crown). The first version of this drink contained brandy, sugar, lime, mint and other herbs. At that time, sailors suffered from scurvy, a vitamin C deficiency, so it was an alternative to combat the low consumption of fresh fruit at sea.

In the 1960s, Don Facundo Bacardi created the renowned Bacardi Rum from honeys obtained from sugar cane from the eastern region of Cuba, where he had his factories. The production of rum was much more refined so it replaced the brandy and baptized the drink as Draquecito.

The daiquirí, for its part, is a cocktail from Santiago. The recipe was passed down by a friend of Constantino Ribalaigua, an insightful Catalan immigrant who came to Cuba seeking his fortune in 1914 and who after four years as a bartender became the owner of the Floridita. He is recognized among Cubans as the king of mixologists, for having spread the refreshing daiquiri around the world. With him were all the secrets of the bar, the secret of Floridita.

El Floridita and La B del M

If you arrive at the central corner of Obispo and O’Reilly, in the Montserrate neighborhood, in the heart of Old Havana, you can visit the Floridita, while La Bodeguita del Medio will be found on Empedrado street, very close to Plaza de Cathedral.

La Bodeguita del Medio is a peculiar bar-restaurant with a lot of tradition, everyone is curious to enjoy the history that is hidden within those walls, with more than two million signatures of celebrities such as Ernest Hemingway, Mario Benedetti, Pablo Neruda, Errol Flynn, Agustín Lara, Brigitte Bardot, Ignacio Villa (Snowball) and Salvador Allende.

El Floridita, a still life. It retains its Regency-style decoration since the 1950s. It stands out for its sober ornamentation and exceptional marquetry work and taste. Many say it opened on July 6, 1817; others say it was July 10. The truth is that since then it has become the place of passage to quench your thirst on walks through Old Havana.

Both places were immortalized by Ernest Hemingway, who settled in the Hotel Ambos Mundos, a few blocks from Floridita and frequented them almost daily. His hobby was of such magnitude that, when he moved to Finca Vigía, on the outskirts of Havana, he traveled to the capital to visit them. The famous American writer would thus discover, in a universal way, the culture and traditions kept like two jewels in the Cuban capital.