Tuesday, May 15, 2012

El Presidente...and not the one in the Green Bottle

I'm a sucker for a good historical back-story. While going through the 75th Anniversary edition of the Mr. Boston: Official Bartender's Guide I found one such drink to satisfy the appetite for a back-story. Too bad the drink itself did not do the same for my thirst. The name of the drink is the El Presidente Cocktail No. 1.

As the story goes, President Calvin Coolidge Jr. (July 4, 1872 – January 5, 1933) the 30th President of the United States (from 1923–1929) visited the island of Cuba in January 1928 for the Pan American Conference. At some point President Coolidge met with Gerardo Machado (September 28, 1871 – March 29, 1939) who was the Cuban President (from 1925-1933). At said meeting, Presidente Machado had a cocktail made for President Coolidge. Since it was a drink being made for a President on the recommendation of his peer, it would stand to reason that the drink would be called El Presidente. The drink was originally made for then President Aurelio Mario Gabriel Francisco García Menocal y Deop (December 17, 1866 – September 7, 1941) aka Carmen Menocal (President from 1913 to 1921) at La Vista Alegre in city of Havana in 1920. Now, there's nothing odd about that. Right? Well herein lies the rub.

Look at the year I mention above: 1928. For those of you who aren't historically inclined, the United States was in the middle of a little mess of a thing called The National Prohibition Act aka the Volstead Act aka Prohibition. So imagine the bit of a pickle that President Coolidge found himself in when he's the head of state of a country that has prohibited the production and consumption of Alcoholic beverages and is being offered a cocktail. I would assume that if there were reporters at hand and they saw President Coolidge enjoying a cocktail while telling his constituents that it was a crime for them to do so it would have been a messy situation for him to be in. Understandably so, President Coolidge respectfully declined the drink.

****AUTHOR'S NOTE: Now this retelling by me will be different from other versions you might find online. I re-wrote it since based on the dates that President Coolidge visited Cuba, Menocal wasn't President, Machado was.

Now that we have the story out of the way, here is the recipe listed in Mr. Boston's:

El Presidente Cocktail No. 1
1 1/2oz. of Light Rum
3/4 oz. of fresh lime juice
1 tsp. of Pineapple juice
1 tsp. of Grenadine

Shake with ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass.

So I made it as stated. It was tart from the fresh lime and had a pink/red hue due to the grenadine. I'm not sure if those without a preference for a tart tasting cocktail will like it. In addition, the measurements left for a half full cocktail glass.

The second cocktail was made with an upscaling of the ingredients to meet the current standards. I decided to take a chance and use the Rose's Lime Juice rather than squeezing the fresh limes. What a mistake that was. The flavor was totally off. Not palatable in the least. Even when I added more pineapple juice it was not drinkable.

The third cocktail was made with a whole lime squeezed. Where the first one was tart and light, this one was just oppressive in its tartness. I would describe it as being punched in the mouth by a lime. I guess my amounts were off.

I also found other versions of El Presidente Cocktail. One is from The Bowery website. Here is their recipe:

El Presidente
Havana Club (Rum?)
dry vermouth

Shaken and served in a coupette.

The other one comes from the Cocktalia website. Here is their recipe:

El Presidente
1 1/2 ounce Denizen Rum
3/4 ounce bianco or blanc vermouth
1/2 ounce orange curaçao
1 barspoon BG Reynolds Hibiscus Grenadine
1 dash orange bitters

This particular recipe was suggested by the team at Denizen Rum, who also supplied me with the bottle seen above, and it was further slightly modified by my use of BG Reynolds Hibiscus Grenadine instead of regular. An extremely minor change, that, only done because that’s the grenadine I happen to have on hand (and really, who needs more than one bottle at a time?).

I tried versions of this cocktail using both bianco vermouth and the dry vermouth found in the original recipe (both Dolin). When using dry vermouth, the drink benefits from increasing the amount of rum by 1/4 ounce or so, but it works well either way.
PHOTO CREDIT: From the Cocktalia website

As you can tell the recipe is different from the one in the book. Instead of lime being the citrus flavor in use, it is orange in the form of the orange curaçao and the orange bitters in the Cocktalia version.

I would hate to give up on this cocktail since it really is a pretty cocktail to serve. Even though the other versions would seem to be much more palatable, I think the version that is in the book can actually work. I guess I'll have to continue playing around with it until I get it just right. Any suggestions?

Until Then Happy Drinking,
Sisco Vanilla