The barfly in Havana walks in the footsteps of Ernest Hemingway and knows what he knew - the only way to soak up the essence of Cuba is in its classic bars. Cuba libres, daiquiris and mojitos rule the roost, but many of the drink menus in Havana represent the classics of the 1950s, with sidecars and Tom Collins. In truth, some of the bars in Havana can a little wild, but if barflies stick to these fine bars they'll find where the locals are fun and the drinks are good.
El Floridita for Your Daiquiri
El Floridita is a legendary Havana bar and not just because it was the favourite drinking spot of Hemmingway. El Floridita earned its legendary status from providing classic and upscale service in a town that can occasionally not be so classy. The same polished black wood bar top has been used since the beginning and guests can feel the history and liquor that has seeped into it. Waiters serve drinks to the tables and booths in smart-looking red jackets and the whole establishment has a mature and sophisticated air, making it the perfect place to cool off after a hot afternoon. As for what to drink at El Floridita, there is only really one thing. It is famed for being the birthplace of the daiquiri and proud of the reputation. It's not often that barflies will get to sample the original creation in its original setting. The daiquiri at El Floridita is sure to set the standard in which drinkers can measure all other daiquiris.
La Bodeguita del Medio for Your Mojito
creativecommons.org/ Ben Kucinski
La Bodeguita del Medio is another bar famously linked to Hemmingway. The man may have put his fair share of time into drinking at many bars in Havana (and indeed all of Cuba), but when he famously penned, "my mojito in La Bodeguita, my daiquiri in El Floridita," the bar's business soared. La Bodeguita del Medio has been around since 1942 and its history is written on the walls, literally. Typical of most Cuban establishments, it is cluttered with photos and little trinkets from its more famous patrons. Over the years, it has been visited by numerous stars including Pablo Neruda, Nat King Cole and Marlene Dietrich, all of whom have left their mark. Although the drink menu has a wide variety of well made and occasionally creative cocktails, the mojito should, of course, be the first thing the visiting barfly should try.
El Gato Tuerto for the Stylish
For many years, El Floridita was about as stylish a bar as one could find in Havana. The city and local patrons often prefer strong drinks and good company to ambiance in their favourite bar, but "The One-Eyed Cat" changed it all. El Gato Tuerto is Havana's first designer bar and a favourite hangout among the artists and other bohemian types in the city. The sleek interior features clear-wood floors and post-modern furniture set up in a very casual setting that's perfect for the relaxing with a cocktail and enjoying some of the live music from local bands on the weekends. Those intent on hanging out with the young and fashionable hipsters of Havana should order the house special, the Pina Colada, and enjoy it as they l meet some of the most interesting people in the city.
Casa de la Amistad for the One-Stop Visitor
creativecommons.org/ James Emery
Part bar, part restaurant, cigar shop and cafe - Casa de la Amistad doesn't seem so sure on what it wants to be, but it all works together gloriously. When it comes to refreshment, this is the one-stop shop in Havana. Barflies can enjoy a surprisingly affordable and high quality meal, pluck out a good Cuban cigar, drink their fill and pick up a coffee to perk themselves up after a long night. The building's storied history is steeped in Havana's Spanish colonial past, and it originally serving as the House of Friendship between Cuba and the former Soviet Union. Today, it has been transformed into a popular music venue where locals and tourists alike crowd the tables to enjoy good music while sipping drinks and enjoying quality Cohibas. While they have no discernible specialty, but the mojitos and Cuba libres are always popular.
Bar Monserrate for the Traditionalist
The barfly who wants to drink where the locals drink should head to Bar Monserrate. While it gets the occasional tourist, it is majorly off the beaten path and a good place to sample traditional Havana nightlife. Situated in Old Havana near Parque Centra, this atmospheric bar hosts high ceilings and dark wood panelling to create an intimate air. The ambiance and the live music always draw in the crowds and creates a sort of electric mood. The cocktails are always spot on and the service is outstanding.
Have you ever visited any of these Havana watering holes?
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