5 Tips from Alejandro Bolivar of El Floridita, Cuba

By Forest Collins  

Alejandro Bolivar, head bartender at the legendary Cuban bar El Floridita likes to talk cocktails and share their history. The old fashioned cocktail, he explains, was introduced in Cuba in the twentieth during the prohibition years in the United States. It was very popular in Cuba as the best way to enjoy American whiskey.

After the Cuban revolution in 1959 the supply of bourbon to the island stopped and the Cuban cantineros learned how to make the typical cocktails by changing some ingredients with what was available to them at the time. So, for example, they swapped out rum for American whiskey in their Old Fashioneds to create a local and delicious version of the classic cocktail.

Alejandro’s Five Tips for an Old Fashioned: 

1)  Always use a nice, clear old fashioned glass,

2) Use good quality ice that will keep the drink at the best temperature and last longer in the cocktail,

3)  Choose the best quality spirit,

4)  Chill the mixing glass and stir the drink in front of customers for a bit of show,

5)  Garnish with a cherry and slice of fresh orange on the side. Give the costumer a stir stick to finish his own drink by either pressing the juice out of the orange into the cocktail or using it to drop the orange slice directly in. This also gives the client the option to continually stir the drink if he likes it more diluted.

As a bonus Alejandro reminds us to use the proper tool to cut the citrus peel to ensure all the citrus aroma ends up in the drink and suggests using personalized coasters boasting the name “Old Fashioned” so everyone knows what this smart customer is sipping.

Alejandro’s Old Fashioned

  • 3 dashes of Angostura bitters
  • 10 ml still water
  • Spoonful of sugar
  • 60 ml Havana Club rum

Muddle the sugar and water in a chilled mixing glass 

Add the remaining ingredients and stir with ice

Strain into a chilled old fashioned glass over a large, fresh ice cube

Garnish with an orange slice and a cherry 

Express lime oil from zest over cocktail

Serve with a cocktail stir sticks

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