As summer descends once more upon the Valley, my mind shifts to tropical drinks. Well, it's never really shifted away from tropical drinks. I guess the better thing to say is that my tropical drink instinct is getting into high gear.
It's not quite time for me to break out the blender for slushy party drinks. All in due time, my friends. Right now, I want something classic, but unusual. This week, I'm firing up the cocktail time machine to go to 1930s Cuba.
There are a couple of very famous bars in Cuba. One of the biggest names is La Florida, a watering hole where legendary drinker Ernest Hemingway tipped back his favorite version of the Daiquiri. But they had other signature drinks on the menu.
One of my favorites is the bar's namesake drink, the La Florida Cocktail. The base of it is pretty boilerplate as far as rum drinks go. There's rum, lime, and sweetener, this time in the form of grenadine augmented with a little curaçao.
Then things get interesting with the addition of sweet vermouth and some crème de cacao. both of those add complexity, giving some deeper bass notes to the bright highs of rum and lime. I find the chocolate flavor to be especially intriguing here. You wouldn't think it works, but it goes beautifully. Keep a light touch with the crème de cacao. It shouldn't be the first thing you taste; you should catch a suggestion of chocolate right at the end of a sip.
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As you may have noticed, limes are awfully hard to come by these days, and when you do find them they're extremely expensive. There are still the tiny Key limes, but it's a royal pain to squeeze all the little buggers. For now, I'm just substituting lemon juice. There are some differences, but it's enough in the ballpark that drinks still come out well. It's definitely a better substitution than bottled lime juice, which I hope has no place behind your bar.
La Florida Cocktail 3/4 ounce lime juice 1-1/2 ounces light rum 1/2 ounce sweet vermouth 1/4 ounce crème de cacao (preferably clear) 1 barspoon orange curaçao 1 barspoon grenadine
Shake well with ice cubes. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.