Recipe of the Week: The Hemingway Special

"This frozen daiquiri, so well beaten as it is, looks like the sea where the wave falls away from the bow of a ship when she is doing thirty knots."

- Ernest Hemingway, Islands in the Stream

Back in the 1930s, the illustrious novelist Ernest Hemingway had escaped his crowded home in Key West - constantly flooded with friends and literati wishing to bask in his limelight – for a more secluded place more suitable for a writer.

The American Prohibition had recently ended, which is when Cuba became wildly popular for tourists wanting to have a swell time drinking - legally. El Floridita, near Havana’s Parque Central, thus became one of his favorites. It was here that Hemingway was first introduced to his beloved daiquiri, celebrated for decades to come as El Hemigway.


Source: Deposit Pictures

As the story goes, Hemingway was passing through El Floridita for a quick use of the bathroom. Upon leaving, he saw bartender Constantino Ribalaigua Vert lining the bar top with daiquiris. Constantino did not invent the daiquiri, though he is credited with creating the frozen version that is most popular nowadays. He took ownership in uniquely mastering the frozen drink, without using any blender.

Seeing the unique skills of the mixologist, Hemingway had to try one for himself before leaving the bar. He liked the drink, but preferred the daiquiri sugarless, with double the amount of rum. When Constantino made a new drink per Hemingway’s suggestions, the “Papa Doble” was born, as well as The “Hemingway Special” which included grapefruit juice and maraschino liqueur. 

Not long after, Hemingway became a regular at El Floridita, supposedly being able to drink as many as 16 in one sitting. He sat in a distinct, dark corner of the bar, which allowed him to quietly read or write. El Floridita, Constantino and the frozen daiquiri proved to be a source of great inspiration for Hemingway’s novel “Islands in the Stream,” which was published posthumously. A significant part of the novel is set in a Havana bar where protagonist Thomas Hudson enjoys double, sugarless daiquiris served by a bartender named Pedrico.


Source: Wikimedia Commons

Hemingway loved Havana so much that he made it his home in 1939. Along with his third wife, Martha Gellhorn, Hemingway moved into a house known as Finca Vigía. He lived there for twenty years; once he went back to the US, the house went to the Cuban government, which proudly displays it as a museum.

As for The Hemingway Daiquirí Special, here is the Daiquirí recipe from El Floridita: 


2 1/1 jiggers Bacardi or Havana Club rum

(1 jigger = 1 1/2 ounces)

Juice of 2 limes

Juice of 1/2 grapefruit

6 drops of maraschino (cherry brandy) 


Fill a blender one-quarter full of ice, preferably shaved or cracked.

Add the rum, lime juice, grapefruit juice and maraschino.

Blend on high until the mixture turns cloudy and light-colored.

Serve immediately in large, conical goblets.

Enjoy and see you at El Floridita!

Recipe Source: Michael Palin's Hemingway Adventure

Written by Monica Suma. You can follow her on Twitter at @MonicaSuma