For better or worse, Ernest Hemingway's legacy is inextricably tied to Cuba. The Nobel Prize-winning author is almost as well-known for his drinking habits as he is for his writing. The two were inseparable during his years spent in Cuba.
I built this loose riff on a Papa Doble around the palate and drinking habits of Ernest Hemingway for Pouring Ribbons' Cuba 1958 menu. The name, Pilar, comes from the fishing boat Hemingway used to patrol Cuban waters for Germans during World War II.
Pilar draws its inspiration from the legacy of Ernest Hemingway and his last great, Cuba-inspired work, The Old Man and The Sea. Hemingway's time spent on Pilar inspired the Pulitzer-winning novella about a Spanish-born, Cuban fisherman and his struggles with the sea, a marlin, and a shiver of blood-thirsty sharks.
Ultimately, the Pilar is a bracing, citrusy, slightly salinic, and mildly bitter cocktail that incorporates all of Hemingway's liquid loves in one glass.
1.25 oz Tanqueray 10 London Dry Gin
1 oz Manzanilla Sherry
.75 oz Grapefruit & Lime Cordial
.25 oz Cristal Aguardiente
.25 oz Lime Juice
.5 tsp Luxardo Maraschino
Float: .25 oz Campari
Garnish: Grapefruit Marlin Twist
Whip shake with crushed ice and dump into the glass. Top with crushed ice and float the Campari. Garnish with a grapefruit twist cut into the shape of a marlin (step by step instructions below).
After spending years reporting on the Spanish Civil War, Hemingway settled down in Cuba in 1939. He brought old drinking habits with him, but quickly developed an appetite for all things rum – so much so that La Floridita's Daiquiri #3 came to be known as the Papa Doble, named after Hemingway himself who the Cuban locals referred to as "Papa."
2 oz Cuban white rum
1 spoonful sugar
.25 oz lime juice
1 tsp grapefruit juice
1 tsp maraschino liqueur
The story goes: Hemingway requested double the booze and, in some half-assed attempt to be mindful of a family history of diabetes, asked for the sugar to be omitted, which would read like this:
4 oz Cuban white rum
.5 oz lime juice
.33 oz grapefruit juice
.33 oz maraschino liqueur
The story continues with accounts of Hemingway regularly knocking back 10 of these per day.
Besides the fact this was served as a frappe which would increase the overall volume of the drink to comical proportions, this "story," like much of the lore surrounding Hemingway, seems to be embellished for the benefit of Papa's tough-guy reputation.
But that's a different rant for a different day.
Over time, in classic American whitewashing fashion, Constantino Ribalaigua Vert's Daiquiri #3 has become most recognized simply as the Hemingway Daiquiri, which now typically adjusts the proportions for a reasonable person's palate and omits the frappe serve:
2 oz White Rum
.75 oz Lime Juice
.5 oz Grapefruit Juice
.25 oz Luxardo Maraschino
Complicated history aside, The Hemingway Daiquiri was the first cocktail I ever had. I have undeniable nostalgia tied to what I've come to recognize as one of the least balanced classics in the contemporary cocktail canon. It's a thin, acidic cocktail by design, but I like the combination of the lime, grapefruit, and maraschino.
As I've mentioned in a previous post, I purposefully avoided using rum for the Cuba 1958 menu. To guide this cocktail way from rum, I turned to Phillip Greene's book To Have and Have Another, which details the origins and backstory of every reference to spirits and cocktails found in Hemingway's works.
Tanqueray 10 London Dry Gin
Originally, the base for the Pilar was going to be an ounce of the spicy, grapefruit-forward Perry's Tot Navy Strength Gin from New York Distilling Company. After some extensive R&D, Tanqueray 10's brighter citrus notes of both grapefruit and lime proved a better fit, as it echoed the grapefruit & lime cordials and the fresh lime juice. Since Tanqueray 10's ABV is about 10% lower than that of Perry's Tot, I compensated by bumping up the volume of gin from one ounce to 1.25 oz.
You could technically substitute any high proof, citrusy London Dry style gin. Bonus points if grapefruit and lime are botanicals used in the distillation of said gin.
I wanted to ensure a fair amount of salinity in the drink to reference the salty ocean Hemingway patrolled in Pilar. Manzanilla sherry fits the bill as it's bone dry, acidic, and highly salinic.
Beyond the oceanic reference, salt tempers bitter flavors – especially the heavy grapefruit notes found in the cordial and bitter Campari.
I used "I Think" Manzanilla En Rama, but Lustau's Manzanilla Papirusa works great as well. You needn't be too picky with your sherry, as long as it's of quality.
Grapefruit & Lime Cordial*
My biggest issue with the balance of the Hemingway Daiquiri is the fact that the only real sugar comes from the maraschino liqueur. The most common conception is Hemingway asked for a reduced sugar daiquiri because he was diabetic, but he apparently also believed that the lack of sugar could allow him to drink dozens of daiquiris while avoiding a hangover.
Regardless of the reason, the modern palate demands more sugar and body. As such, I chose to swap out the grapefruit juice for a sweeter grapefruit cordial (balanced with acidity from lime). Additionally, because the Papa Doble was served over shaved ice, I wanted to honor that serve with crushed ice. More ice means more water content which demands more sugar to balance the drink.
Cristal Aguardiente is a Colombian spirit distilled from sugar cane which is flavored with anise. It happens to plays incredibly well with maraschino liqueur, which is how it found its way into this cocktail.
Hemingway was a fan of anise-heavy spirits and liqueurs. He also acquired a taste for Aguardiente (probably grape-based) while traveling abroad covering the Spanish Civil War.
You can substitute Cristal Aguardiente with 1 tsp Cuban style white rum and .5 tsp absinthe, pastis, or arak.
Despite the lime in the grapefruit cordial and the acidity of the sherry, I needed a touch more acid to balance out the sugar and brighten the palate.
Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
Love it or hate it, a little bit of this ubiquitous cherry liqueur goes a long way. A half teaspoon adds subtle warm fruit and floral notes without turning the drink into a maraschino bomb.
If you're using a lighter maraschino liqueur such as Leopold Bros. or Maraska, you can up this to .25 oz.
And it should go without saying – maraschino syrup is in no way a comparable substitute.
Incorporated as a float, Campari provides a striking visual contrast and references the blood of the marlin in The Old Man and The Sea. When swizzled in with the rest of the drink, it imbues the gin and sherry with a Negroni-esque flavor.
With the exception of Bordiga and Gran Classico, just about any red bitter aperitivo will work here, especially Meletti and Luxardo.
Grapefruit Marlin Twist
To this day, Pouring Ribbons bartenders curse me for this one. Since the thematic purpose of the Campari float symbolized the marlin's blood, I figured why not add the actual marlin?
Every drink I had on this menu had an obnoxious garnish. The Oro Cubano required an aromatic dusting from a single coffee bean grated with a microplane. The Radio Rebelde called for a demerara sugar-dredged maraschino cherry to be brûléed to order. The Daisy de Machito demanded a cookie cutter be reshaped to stamp out maracas from fresh yellow bell pepper which were then skewered through the center of a dehydrated pineapple slice formed into a flower.
But nothing tops asking the bartenders and servers to peel a swath of grapefruit peel and meticulously carve it into the shape of a marlin to be placed over the top of a blood-red Campari float. I know, I'm the worst.
Whatever your citrus carving skills, I would recommend simply grating some grapefruit zest over the drink for a more efficient, though less showy, aromatic. If you wanna get wild, click through the slideshow below for step by step instructions on how to carve your own marlin.
Grapefruit & Lime Cordial
250g white granulated sugar
225g grapefruit juice
25g lime juice
peel of 1 grapefruit
peel of 4 limes
Combine 250g white sugar with the peels of 1 grapefruit and 4 limes in a sealed container for 24 hours. Add 225g grapefruit juice and 25g lime juice. Mix until sugar is dissolved. Strain peels.
[Yields 12oz of cordial.]