Saturday, December 23, 2017
La Bodeguita del Medio
This extraneous branch of possibly the most famous drinking hole in Old Havana is situated in a surprisingly non-descript, semi-suburban quarter of the Costa Rican capital. And inauthentically tumbleweed empty at lunchtime.
The original La Bodeguita del Medio opened its doors in 1942 as a local grocery store. Rather like a version of La Antigua's very own 'La Bodegona', but requiring a diminutive.
The proprietor, one Ángel Martínez, then teamed up with a Hungarian called Sepy Dobronyi in 1951 to convert the establishment into something more akin to a bar-restaurant, serving archetypal rural Cuban dishes like ajiaco and popularising the equally quintessential local tipple, the mojito. (It is thought that this cocktail must have more venerable roots than the Daiquiri, which requires more ice.)
These days the Habana Vieja location is ground zero for Hemingway fanboys: one reason I find the Playa del Carmen outlet somewhat preferable, with its lighter Mexi-Cuban fusion grub...even though it is arguably yet more touristy.
'Papa' Hemingway supposedly said 'Mi mojito en La Bodeguita, mi daiquiri en El Floridita.' and as a result, the autochthonous venues, both now owned by the island's socialist state, still pack in the punters...though it might be worth noting that for medical reasons Hemingway was not permitted to consume sugar, so Heaven knows what he was actually drinking in these joints.
Ice may also have been an issue in the aftermath of the Revolution as its production requires copious quantities of electricity.
La Bodeguita uses cane syrup in their mojitos, plus Caribbean spearmint, the imperative ingredient that is replaced with common-all-garden mint in almost all the crappy mojitos one might ever have quaffed.
The American author was notorious for always going 'commando' and farting all persistently, so the bar was possibly not always as filled to the rafters when he was holding court in there.
And thus this one in San José may not be so inauthentic after all.