Cuba's Hotel Nacional cocktail revives as one of the trendiest summer drinks

Posted: 04-Jul-16 09:35

Many delicious cocktails have been brought to life in Cuba, including refreshing world-renowned brews like the mojito, the daiquiri and the Cuba Libre. Today, one of the island's most popular drinks in the 1930s-1940s has been put back on the map: the Hotel Nacional. Concocted inside its namesake hotel in Havana and slightly forgotten for the past few decades, this delicious mix of tropical fruits and aged rum possesses a timeless taste that is once again top choice in bars all around the world.

Cuba's Hotel Nacional cocktail revives as one of the trendiest summer drinks

What better way to fight off the summer heat than with an ice-cold, thirst-quenching cocktail? As an eternally-warm Caribbean island, Cuba has been the birthplace of many chilly and delicious concoctions everyone has heard about: from minty "mojitos" and refreshing "daiquiris" to the simple yet tremendously popular Cuba Libre (rum and coke). Although, thankfully, delightful drinks such as these have passed the test of time, other tasty cocktails have been overshadowed and almost forgotten. This is the case of the special Hotel Nacional Special brew, which is rapidly rising from its ashes and gaining international recognition once more.

History of Hotel Nacional and its special cocktail

The cocktail was created in the 1930s by the famous William P. Taylor, barman and manager of Havana’s namesake hotel at the time. When it was founded, the Hotel Nacional de Cuba was one of the world’s grandest venues. Rising from a rocky ridge overlooking Havana Harbour, this landmark exhibits an eclectic architectural style, reflecting Art Deco, Arabic references, features of Hispano-Moorish architecture, and both neo-classical and neo-colonial elements and even details from the centuries-old Californian style. Its fame extends to the present and has been the recipient of many highly symbolic and important awards.

Its stately opulence attracted celebrities, politicians, wealthy travellers and even mobsters. Some of the illustrious guests that would gather in the Hotel Nacional’s bar were Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner, John Wayne, Marlene Dietrich, Marlon Brando, Ernest Hemingway and even British patrons such as Winston Churchill, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and scientist Alexander Fleming. It has been selected as one of top Cuban hotels more than once.

The first reference to the hotel’s flagship cocktail appears in Charles H. Baker Jr.’s 1939 Gentleman’s Companion, where he attributes the Hotel Nacional Special to Wil Taylor, around 1931:

“Wil P. Taylor’s Hotel Nacional Special, which, along with the Tropical Daiquiri & the Santiago de Cuba Mint Julep is one of the three finest Bacardi drinks known to science…”.

The cocktail goes by various names—“Hotel Nacional de Cuba”, “Hotel Nacional Special”, or sometimes just “National”. Whatever you call it, it is one of the great combinations of rum and pineapple juice, with a special hint of apricot brandy.

Once you’re done adding the elements all you need to do is shake all ingredients (aged rum, pineapple juice, lime juice, syrup and apricot brandy) with ice until very cold and strain the result into a small cocktail stem. For decoration, you may garnish with a lime or pineapple wheel on the rim.

This exciting twist on the daiquiri boasts a mellow and elegant character. The pineapple juice adds consistency and sweetness, while the apricot brandy brings out the slightly acid, fruity side that plays well with liquor. Don’t miss out on sipping one of these delightful concoctions this summer which combines delicious Caribbean flavours. Evoking a warm sunset Hotel Nacional Special invites you to enjoy as you gaze out into the disappearing sunshine and even accompany this Cuban experience with a quality cigar at its garden.


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