The Spirit of Sugarcane is Still Cuba's Favorite Quaff. We Taste the Best
From the Print Edition:
The Cuba Issue, May/Jun 99
(continued from page 3)
The tasting over, the group lights cigars. Strong coffee arrives at the table, and the discussion grows lively. What is their favorite rum cocktail? All give the nod to the mojito except D'Meza, who loyally stands up for El Floridita's Daiquiri. What do they think of El Duque, the Cuban exile whose pitching helped the Yankees win the World Series last year? Again, they concur: he's a hero, who proved to the world how good Cubans can be. What's the best dish at the restaurant? They look at their watches--it's near noon--and in a scramble of handshakes they are off to don tuxedos.
Suckling and I move to a smaller table and order a beer--the light, bitter Cristal that cleanses our palates and clears our heads. Tejada returns, suddenly formal, wheeling a silver cart. "We have tasted your rum," he announces. "Now you will taste our food."
He lights a burner under a small saucepan and tosses in a pat of butter and a dash of oil. He chops an onion and a green pepper and cooks them for a moment, until they soften. Then he adds a handful of large, fresh shrimp. As they sizzle, he squeezes in the juice of half a lime and then picks up a bottle of rum. "Usually we use a simple rum," Tejada notes, pouring a steady stream into the pan, "but today I thought the Matusalem would do nicely." He lights a match, and the rum bursts into flame. He divides the mixture onto two plates. "This is the classic dish of El Floridita," he says.
The shrimp are tender and juicy, sweetened by the onion and enlivened by the lime. The rum adds a haunting smoky warmth that evokes a driftwood fire on the beach at sunset. The dish doesn't taste old-fashioned, but its harmonious balance doesn't taste newly minted, either. It tastes of the sea and the sun. It tastes like Cuba.
Thomas Matthews is a senior editor and the New York bureau chief of Wine Spectator, a sister publication of Cigar Aficionado.
The Best Cuban Rums
Matusalem Anejo SuperiorHavana Club seven years old
Ron Santiago 45 Aniversario
Havana Club Gran Reserva
Varadero seven years old
Havana Club three years old
Los Marinos Paticruzados five years old
Caribbean Club five years old
Havana Club five years old
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