Before we get started, let’s omit the “the” when referring to this cocktail. It’s just El Presidente. Sorry… Bilingual pet peeve. Anywho… El Presidente is a classic Cuban cocktail consisting of rum, blanc vermouth, dry curaçao, and just a dash of grenadine. If you think “hmmm… so it’s like a Cuban Manhattan?” you wouldn’t be mistaken. Vic Bergeron, aka Trader Vic, also famously referred to El Presidente as the “Martini of Cuba.”
What is the history of El Presidente?
The drink traces its roots to La Habana in 1915. It first appeared in a book titled Manual de Cantineros, or Bartender’s Manual, by John B. Escalante, a manual of recipes and techniques intended for bartenders.
It is believed that the drink was created by Constantino Ribalaigua during his time at El Floridita Bar in La Habana. Ribalaigua was known to many as el Rey de Los Cocteleros, or the King of Cocktails, for his creations and contributions to Cuban cocktails during his time at El Floridita. Even among his contemporaries he was widely recognized as the best bartender in Cuba.
We also have to give credit to David Wondrich, author of Imbibe! for digging into the history of this cocktail. For years everyone thought this drink was made with Dry Vermouth, but thanks to Wondrich’s research he found that at the time Cuban bartenders were using the slightly sweeter blanc vermouth, which actually makes for a much better version of this cocktail.
Last time I was in Miami I visited Cafe La Trova and I had the best El Presidente I’ve had in my life. It was boozy, well-balanced, and just simply delicious! If you’re in Miami I highly recommend you go and check out this award-winning restaurant.
- 1.5 oz aged rum
- 1/2 oz dry curaçao
- 3/4 oz blanc vermouth
- 1 tsp grenadine
- Add ingredients to a mixing glass and fill with ice.
- Stir for 20-25 seconds.
- Strain and serve in a chilled coupe and garnish with a picked cherry.
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