April 9, 2009

"It's an investment in Havana - this is a little gift for the President"

One of my favorite sections of "The Godfather, Part II" is the part of the story set in pre-embargo Cuba (though obviously the scenes were shot elsewhere, the Dominican Republic in this case). While that section of the film took place in the 50s, Cuba has a long history with cocktails and booze. Bacardi's first distillery was there (Castro's government has since taken it over...it produces Havana Club, now), and Americans flocked to the friendly bars of Cuba during Prohibition, as it was a easy journey of just 90 miles from the US mainland. It was during that time that tonight's drink was invented, a rum concoction called El Presidente.

Now, you may have seen a drink with this name that purports to contain pineapple and lime juices. While that may be a lovely cocktail, it's not the real McCoy. In fact, that drink is closer to a Hotel Nacional Special or a Sunshine than El Presidente. No, the real El Presidente, named after Gerardo Machado, the former cattle thief turned leader who ruled Cuba until he was deposed by Batista in 1933.

The true version of El Presidente is made as follows:

1 1/2 oz white or golden rum
1/2 oz orange curaçao
3/4 oz French vermouth
dash of grenadine

Stir well with cracked ice and strain into a cocktail glass, garnish with a twist of orange peel.

Your end result should be a beautiful, clear orange hue, rather like this:
Have a cigar, you're gonna go far!
(Look at that, I even used props in this photo!)

I really like this drink. The French (dry) vermouth keeps it from getting too sweet and cloying, and lends it some depth. I think the next time I make it, I'd round it out with a dash or two of orange bitters as well to add a little more spice, but as it stands now, it's a damned fine drink. Definitely one to add to your repertoire.

40 minutes later: I made a second one and bunged in a dash of orange bitters...I was right, it's even better!


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