Having a sip at the bar on Hemingway’s house in Finca Vigia

Posted: 26-Oct-16 10:59

Traveller Alexander Britell writes for Cuba Journal to tell of his experience visiting the new bar at Hemingway's famous house (and now a museum) in Finca Vigia, a farm on Havana's outskirts and one of the most peaceful settings in which to enjoy the American novelist's favourite tipple. In his article he explains why this is one destination cocktail-lovers shouldn't miss during a trip to Cuba, especially if you venture to this part of Havana and you're a Hemingway fan.

Having a sip at the bar on Hemingway’s house in Finca Vigia

When visiting the former Cuban home, now turned museum, of American Nobel-prize-winning writer Ernest Hemingway, Alexander Britell felt the need to sing the praises to an unassuming, unnamed bar located adjacent to it. To the naked eye, there’s nothing special about this small and rather rustic drinking space. You will find no elegant touches and definitely no refinement but instead you’ll be regaled with tones of character, authenticism and charm. But its best asset without a doubt is its signature cocktail, so good the author says, that it had him driving all the way back to Finca Vigia for the second time on a short four-day Cuba holiday!

Another big draw of the make-shift bar outside Hemingway’s Cuban residence is the fact that each and every single one of the ingredients that go into the making of the signature cocktail here that goes by the name “Coctel Vigia” is freshly prepared, from the freshly squeezed sugarcane being squashed through the mechanical machine right in front of your eyes to make “guarapo” (pressed sugarcane juice) to the freshly picked lemons and freshly peeled pineapples. All ingredients are local, as local as the old townsmen playing domino at a table near the bar counter and the children playing baseball down the hill.

It all adds up to recreate what they call was Hemingway´s first taste of pineapple, and it happened right at this sport, or so reads the sign in front of it.

As Mr Britell noted, this bar belongs here, not least of all because Hemingway was so fond of Cuban cocktails, so much so, there´s a statue of him at the Floridita Bar in Old Havana, also known as the birthplace of daiquiri and the nearby La Bodeguita del Medio, birthplace of the mojito, has his picture featuring prominently next to his signature with Hemingway´s famous saying, much-replicated around Cuba:

“My mojito at La Bodeguita, my daiquiri at El Floridita.”

Yet the cocktail to be enjoyed at his former home´s bar is none of these, but one that was especially created for him here and named after the name he gave to his Cuban house. The Vigia cocktail epitomises Hemingway´s love for all things Cuban, from the lively atmosphere to the rum concoctions he so much loved.

According to the writer, inside Hemingway´s Finca Vigia residence you can still see bottles of Bacardi and Wild Turkey for the drinks he made himself when he wasn´t in two of his favourite bars in downtown Havana. So it´s only right that a bar should be placed here, and gift visitors with a taste of what Hemingway used to enjoy.

As Birtell retells his experience, our advice is to follow his lead and take it all in and observe as the real experts mix aged Havana Club rum 7 Anos with guarapo juice, squeezes of lemon and a wedge of freshly-cut pineapple. Birtell says this cocktail is so exceedingly good that you must relish it while mentally stepping back in time and imagining Papa Hemingway (as they affectionately called in Cuba) wandering around his abode, waiting to greet you.

Or, as he puts it:

“It is so good it reminds you why Hemingway loved this country, why this country loves him, and why he loved the people of this island.”

Before putting a finishing end to his article, Birtell draws attention to the friendly barman, Rodolfo, who keeps making them non-stop, as the pressing machine keeps turning and crushed cane juice keeps pouring through, making you wonder if they´ll run out of guarapo soon. In his last sentence, the author wraps up his experience at the bar by declaring Hemingway´s house unequivocally needed a bar, and the one here is amazingly and fittingly good.

There is no doubt about it that this is one bar that should be added to our list of four Cuban locations for living and drinking like Papa Hemingway, as this is one enchanting place that should no longer remain a secret that only the few that visit know about. 


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