The Floridita and La Bodeguita del Medio are two bars in Old Havana where Hemingway whiled away the days and evenings during his love affair with the Cuban capital. Both are charming. Both are also quite touristy but still are must-visit destinations.
My own preference is La Bodeguita, but let’s head to the Floridita first. Located just off Parque Central at the end of Calle Obispo. You can’t miss the Floridita – it is very loud in proclaiming its affiliation with Ernesto, which makes it a bit too flashy for some tastes. But don’t be put off, La Floridita remains a very sweet bar to savour Cuba in even though it’s fame and location draw steady crowds of visitors from all over the world.
You can well understand the attraction of the Floridita. I’s got a stunning deco bar staffed by professional bartenders and usually has a small Cuban band packed into the corner very much as it likely did in the 1950s. Around the bend of the swanky bar is a statue of Hemingway that certainly makes the point and is a focus for Nikon moments.
Getting down to business, the daiquiris in La Floridita are spectacular. Hemingway is reported to have downed large quantities and you may too. At 6 CUCs they’re comparatively expensive by Havana standards, but not bad for wonderful icy refreshment and a shot of history.
Not far from Old Havana’s Cathedral on Calle Empedrado, La Bodeguita might not be memorable but for the connection with Hemingway. He famously wrote “My mojito in La Bodeguita, my daiquiri in El Floridita.”
Much smaller, or at least less grand than The Floridita, La Bodeguita has but half a dozen stools and room for another dozen drinkers to stand. Evenings, in a very tiny corner plays the energetic Cuban band standing among the drinkers. There’s a restaurant in the back that serves Cuban dishes and is usually solidly packed.
La Bodeguita has replicas all over the world, but the Havana version appears to remains much as it was when it was founded in 1950. The bartender sets up rows of mojitos along the bar and people from everywhere overflow the place to enjoy them for 4 CUC, again slightly more than the cost elsewhere, but market forces appear to work even in Cuba.
Perhaps it’s the atmosphere including the many many autographs that paper the walls and Ernesto’s quote over the bar that work their magic, but those mojitos certainly are a treat.
There are welcoming bars and cafes all over Old Havana that serve fine cocktails and lots of Cristal beer that you will undoubtedly discover and enjoy. Still, the two bars where Hemingway imbibed hold a special attraction that draws happy cocktail aficionados and welcomes lovers of literary legend every day.