Friday 1st & Saturday 2nd June
Prohibition may have been a curse for American drinkers but it was a blessing for others. Top US bartenders fled to find work abroad, taking their skills and enthusiasm for cocktails: one of the places they landed was Havana—tantalisingly close to the US for a legal libation or three. "Never has so much beer, rum and Daiquiri been consumed in such a short time," one tourist wrote home. "I have seen people leaving incoming ships," commented Consul Hurst, "who have stopped at bars on their way to the hotel. By the time they reached the hotel they could scarcely ask the reception clerk for a room."
As interest in Cuba grew Pan Am started running boat plane flights from Key West directly into Havana harbour. The airline ran an ad campaign with Bacardi exhorting Americans to "Leave the Dry Lands Behind" and "Fly with us to Havana and you can bathe in Bacardi rum two hours from now."
Tourists landing in Havana would often be greeted by Rafael Valiente, Bacardi's first brand ambassador who would introduce them to the Daiquiri, the classic cocktail of rum, lime juice and sugar.
Havana's appeal was more than just booze, though: a 1924 tourist wrote, "It seems that in this part of the world the moon shines its brightest and the spirit of romance that breathes in the air on a moonlit night in Cuba is irresistible." Another described the island as "an all-round pleasure laboratory", where conventions were flouted and consciences left at home. "Cuba," read one advert, "so near and so friendly, is a storehouse of inexhaustible sun and gaiety…"
Sloppy Joe's bar (the self-styled "crossroad of the world") was rammed with celeb ex-pats and visitors, from Clark Gable and Errol Flynn to Jean-Paul Sartre and the Duke of Windsor. Ernest Hemingway became a regular after he adopted Cuba as his home. Also popular with the smart set was Bar Florida (nicknamed "Floridita"), which claimed to be the birthplace of the Daiquiri.
Upmarket clubs and hotels had jazz bands just like their American counterparts, ensuring that the good times rolled. At our celebration of Old Havana, we too will have live jazz, as well as cabaret from Champagne Charlie and the vintage vinylism of our DJ Auntie Maureen. There will be a menu of classic Cuban cocktails from the time.