By Alexander Britell
SAN FRANCISCO DE PAULA — There should be a bar here.
Here at Finca Vigia, the hillside farm where Ernest Hemingway spent three decades of his life, nothing has changed.
Hemingway’s house became a museum just about a month after he left the country in 1961, and even the bottles of his bar remain on his living room table, Bacardi, Wild Turkey, the ones he drank when he wasn’t in town at El Floridita eing daiquiris.
So this is a place that needs a bar.
And there is one. And it is very good.
There is no name on the bar counter or the tent, just a sign that says “Coctel Vigia,” and the ingredients of the cocktail meant to honor the Finca’s famous resident, the pride of the town of San Francisco de Paula.
The ingredients are simple, like all of the cocktails Hemingway loved: a few slices of lime; a wedge of pineapple; freshly-pressed guarapo (the kind of fresh where you’re there when they press the sugar cane) and Cuba’s most famous exported rum, Havana Club 7 Anos.
The ingredients are all local, as much from this place as the old men playing dominos at the table near the counter or the kids playing baseball down the hill, like they used to in the old days.
It is the cocktail that is so good you take it with you to sit on Hemingway’s front porch, imagining that Papa is a few steps by, ready to take a break from typing to join you. Or to tell Pedrito to tell you to move from his porch.
It is so good it reminds you why Hemingway loved this country, why this country loves him, and why he loved the people of this island.
It is the cocktail that is so good it makes you drive back to Finca Vigia a second time on a four-day trip.
And the barman, Rodolfo, keeps making them, as the wheel of the sugar cane press keeps turning, each time filling them with a bit more Havana Club 7 as the hours go by and you wonder if you’ll run out of guarapo.
There should be a bar in this place. And so there is one. And it is very good.