It is all anyone can think about today. When will we know who won the election for president? Naturally, I am as curious as the next person. I have a keen interest in politics and people and this season has certainly provided any number of distractions. But, I am not sweating it tonight. As I told a friend earlier, this die has been cast, we just haven’t looked under the cup yet. In time, we will know the outcome of Schrödinger’s vote, who got the most in the places where it matters to get those votes. They may monkey with them and argue afterwards, but before too long, we will know what the votes said. Till then, you might as well kick back, enjoy a drink and do your best Alfred E. Neuman. In the interest of keeping things topical, won’t you please join me now, as we stand and make the El Presidente.
This drink hails from Cuba, a place not necessarily known for it’s free and fair elections. For many years, the “elections” in Cuba were more likely to be one-sided affairs with any dissension brutally suppressed. They did not wait till the votes were cast to try to disenfranchise folks, they just did it right up front. Still, they do have lovely weather and many drinks were born there as ex-pats revitalized the cocktail scene in Havana after having to leave the US to find work when Prohibition shut down American bars. That is an often overlooked side effect of 18th Amendment. All of these classic “Prohibition Cocktails” are not American drinks. Sure, a huge number of them were created by American bartenders, but they were mixing them in Paris, London, Havana and any number of other places. Prohibition pushed the cocktail scene out of America’s cities and transplanted it around the globe. There’s a reason that Harry’s New York Bar was in Paris, the 18th amendment. These folks followed the crowd to make their livelihood and when the 21st Amendment repealed Prohibition, many of them did not come back. They had built lives elsewhere. Their country tried to legislate morality, destroyed their livelihood, pushed them away and the world reaped the benefits.
Enough about unintended consequences and not thinking things through, the earliest form of this drink actually predates Prohibition and is a homegrown Cuban classic, first appearing in John B. Escalante’s “Manuel de Cantinero”, a 1915 Spanish language bartender’s guide. It later is rewritten in Harry Craddock’s 1930 “The Savoy Cocktail Book” where it found a wider audience. It has all the trappings of a Prohibition era drink, including some, possibly, superfluous grenadine, so I wonder if Harry “doctored” the original recipe a bit.
This is a stirred drink, so grab your mixing pitcher and pop in 1 1/2 ounces of light rum, it’s a Cuban drink so some real Havana Club 3 Year seems appropriate; 3/4 of an ounce of vermouth blanco, 1/2 an ounce of Cointreau, a barspoon of grenadine and 2-3 drops of 18-21 Havana and Hide Bitters. Add ice and stir to the gentle sounds of GnR’s “Patience”. Stir till Axl finishes his whistle solo, strain into a chilled coupe, express an orange peel over the drink and garnish with one of those wonderful dehydrated orange wheels.
I see the appeal. It’s not my thing but I see why people like it. That’s ok, I have that problem with a lot of presidents. To me, it needs more balance. The sweet from the grenadine pushes too hard. To be fair, a lot of folks are going to love this one and I don’t hate it, I just want something more from it. No worries, it is a nice booze forward sipper and who couldn’t use a little buzz tonight?
Kick back, tune out for a little while and enjoy this drink, the world will still be there when you get back. If they call any states in the meantime, someone will tell you and if they don’t, it won’t matter much. Like I said, that die is cast, we are just waiting for the crying now. Think about the Cuba where this lovely drink was born, how things changed after the revolution, how things are still changing and how much they would love to have free and fair elections where every eligible vote was counted. It must be terrible living in a sort of banana republic where an authoritarian regime tries to control who can vote and which votes will count. Great cigars, old cars and architecture though. I mean, if you are lucky enough to have the right connections and money. To paraphrase American Express, privilege has its privileges. That’s cool, just be aware and be careful what you wish for, you just might get it. Stay safe, stay hydrated and stay sane, my friends.