The unknown life of the Spanish king of the daiquiri, who made history with Ernest Hemingway in Cuba

The fascinating story of Constant Ribalaigua, the mixologist who reinvented the daiquirien Havana to satisfy the tireless thirst of Ernest Hemingway, will reach the big screen


Bronze statue of Hemingway in the bar of Floridita Frederic Schmalzbauer

The fascinating story of Constante Ribalaigua, the mixologist who reinvented the daiquiri in Havana to satisfy the tireless thirst of Ernest Hemingway, will reach the big screen in the form of a documentary by historians from his hometown, Lloret de Mar (Gerona).

In the 1930s, two men, each on one side of the bar, contributed definitively to the daiquiri international fame. It was served by Constant Ribalaigua , considered the "father of the cantina" in Cuba and the "king" of this combination of rum, sugar, lemon, maraschino and ice. And the American writer drank it, according to which the Catalan mixologist designed the "Papa Doble" or "Papa Hemingway" variant, with double rum and no sugar.

This happened in El Floridita , the most famous cocktail bar in Cuba where Hemingway still rests his elbow on the bar , now as a bronze statue, in front of blenders that dismember ice and lemon without rest to fill every minute dozens of glasses of daiquiri frapé , the most famous creation of Constant (also known as Constantine).

The bartender and former owner of Floridita rests in the Colón Cemetery in Havana for a life perhaps as intense and somewhat longer than that of his friend the Nobel Prize for Literature. He was born in 1888, 11 years before Hemingway, and died nine years earlier, in 1952, leaving an eight-year-old orphan : Jorge Ribalaigua .

Today septuagenario, Jorge will be the narrator and indirect protagonist of the documentary about his father Constante Ribalaigua, the King of the mixologists . This film in final process of filming, whose premiere is planned next year, is the initiative of Montse Sala and David Barba, two historians from Lloret de Mar who are determined to make known to the world that "the most influential mixologist of the 20th century", as they define it, it was born in their locality.

"Constante is the one who establishes the canons of classic cocktails: a lot of the Cuban classics in the cocktails, it is highly recognized and we are going to try to make it a little bit more", says Montse Sala in Havana, last stop of the shoot after Lloret de Mar, Barcelona, ​​Madrid, New York and Miami.

Owned by the Ribalaigua, El Floridita became part of the Cuban state when the 1959 Revolution triumphed, Constante died, and the family of Catalan origin emigrated to the United States where Jorge lives to this day. The painful memory of those days took away the desire to return to Cuba for almost six decades, until the producers of the documentary proposed to go back to the bar where he spent part of his childhood.

"It is a huge emotion to visit the Floridita and try to recover all that history that since 60 years ago I have not been able to connect", explains, visibly moved, the son of the famous shaker. Jorge certifies that his family's old bar, now a must for any traveler who travels through the historic center of Havana, "has changed a lot" since childhood , although he acknowledges that "they continue to do phenomenal daiquiris", and proudly attributes it to "legacy" of his father .

In addition to the most famous version of the daiquiri, Constant designed around 200 combinations for the enjoyment of the most demanding drinkers , among them Jean-Paul Sartre, Graham Greene, Gary Cooper or Ava Gardner, regular customers of El Floridita at a time when Havana exhibited its maximum splendor.

"At the time, Constant brought cocktails to an excellence that would now be compared to Michelin stars," says the documentary producer, who also seeks to reclaim from a historical perspective the figure of the bartender , who in Cuba "is almost a divinity" while in other countries the recognition has arrived later.

David and Montse are confident, however, that it will be Hemingway who draws the public's curiosity when they premiere their production: "It does not happen every day that a bartender is immortalized in the novels of a Nobel Prize winner ".

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REF: https://www.elmundo.es/cultura/cine/2018/11/15/5bedc005ca4741451b8b45f1.html