Physical address: Obispo No.557, Old Havana, Havana
Phone number: +53 7 867 1300 or +53 7 867 1301 (ext. 128)
Business hours: 11am – midnight daily
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SITUATED on Calle Obispo, one of the busiest streets in Old Havana, the bar now known as El Floridita originally opened in 1817 under the name La Piña de Plata (the Silver Pineapple). One hundred years later, the stream of US expats who frequented the establishment had convinced the owner to rename it El Florida, and then El Floridita, in honour of their home land.
In those days, much of the bar’s fame came from the drinks created by their barman, Constantino Ribalaigua Vert, known affectionately as Constante. In a time when the crafting of cocktails was in its infancy, Constante was acknowledged to be King. He learned bartending from his father, and between 1914, when he became barman at El Floridita, and 1918, he managed to save up enough to buy the place. This would have been a wise investment for him, as his skill in pouring drinks, combined with the advent of Prohibition in the US, only served to increase the bar’s popularity.
The arrival of El Floridita’s most famous patron, Nobel Prize-winning author, Ernest Hemingway, was driven less by the bar’s reputation however, and more by a more pressing need: he needed to use the restroom. Upon his return to the barroom, he noticed the patrons all sipping the bar’s signature daquiris and asked to try one. Pronouncing that he would prefer it with “less sugar and more rum”, the Papa Doble was born. And with the Floridita only a 10-15 minute walk from his lodgings at the Ambos Mundos Hotel, the Islands in the Stream (which features the daquiris at El Floridita) author quickly became a regular.
If you’re thinking you could have a drink at the end of the bar where Hemingway sat though, think again. Since his death in 1961, the seat has remained reserved for him. In 2003, a life-sized bronze statue was installed to prop up the bar, and a daiquiri is placed in front of it every day. Fear not though, the atmosphere and daquiris in the rest of the bar are just as good.
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