The El Presidente cocktail and the Bay of Pigs

Your cocktail calendar entry for: April
17
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Today on April 17 the El Presidente cocktail is Drink of the Day because it’s the anniversary of the infamous 1961 Bay of Pigs invastion.  It also happens to also be National Cheese Ball Day.  Let’s face it, it’s not every day that we can ponder historic events while enjoying a vaguely-related cocktail and a snack.  You’re on your own in terms of procuring or creating the cheese ball.  Here we’ll wrestle with the cocktail side of the equation and describe the El Presidente cocktail recipe.

The History

We know the Bay of Pigs Invasion as the ill-fated landing operation by Cuban exiles, covertly financed and directed by the US government, on the southwest coast of Cuba.  These folks were determined to unseat Fidel Castro in the aftermath of the Cuban Revolution.  But they pretty much ended up slapped silly by Fidel & Co after a three-day attempt.  It’s probably fair to say most of the participants in this debacle could have really used a drink after the dust settled, so we need an appropriate cocktail.

Lucky for us, we don’t have to venture far.  After all, we’re talking Cuba, the largest sugarcane plantation operation on the planet up until the 1960s.  And that spells just one thing:  rum.  You may be thinking Daiquiri, one of Ernest Hemingway’s preferred libations.  We’ll leave those for his birthday or National Daiquiri Day.  No, instead today we’re going to name El Presidente the Drink of the Day.

The El Presidente cocktail

There are a couple of stories out there concerning exactly when this drink was invented or which Cuban president it is named in honor of.  But nobody disputes its origin as Cuba (probably Havana) and that it was extremely popular through the 1920s.  While nothing is called for that you shouldn’t have handy around the house, it is important to use the right ingredients.

This is particularly true with the vermouth.  Constante Ribalaigua, the head bartender of Havana’s famed Floridita, specifically called for Vermouth de Chambery.  Be careful here.  Muscle memory from the martinis you regularly toss back may cause you to grab dry vermouth.  Please don’t make this grievous error.  No, indeed.  Reach for the Dolin Blanc.

Another choice for Cuban cocktails would be the Hotel Nacional.

Now that we have that out of the way let’s get to the drink itself.

El Presidente cocktail

El Presidente

A true early 20th century classic and extremely popular cocktail in Cuba during the 1920s, the El Presidente makes good use of rum with orange from the Curacao and the distinctly floral aroma of Blanc Vermouth.
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Equipment

  • Mixing glass
  • Coupe glass

Ingredients
  

  • oz White or gold rum Go ahead, pull out the real Havana Club if you've got it.
  • oz Vermouth Blanc It's important to ensure this is Chamberey style vermouth - not dry vermouth. The most commonly available is Dolin Blanc, but you may also find Martini & Rossi or Cinzano Blanco.
  • ¼ oz Curacao Go ahead and use Cointreau if you're out of Curacao
  • ½ tsp Grenadine
  • Garnish: Maraschino cherry (optional)

Instructions
 

  • Add all ingredients to mixing glass
  • Add ice, stir and strain into pre-chilled coupe glass
  • Garnish if desired
  • Drink
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