revolution is not a bed of roses

The Journey of the Cuban Rum Manhattan


The boat left from Mexico. Fidel and Raúl were there. Che. Camilo. Otis.

It was time. Fidel was a lawyer. Otis knew that. He was right behind him. The government was corrupt. Batista was a puppet. They had tried the courts. They had been put on trial themselves. Now they had to take matters into their own hands.

Six months later, Batista was gone. The 26th of July movement had installed the new government. The land was being distributed fairly. Education was being reformed. All services were now nationalised. Ciba belonged to the people.

Otis was sad that Bacardi had left, smashing their factories and destroying the yeast cells that had made the rum what it was for the last 150 years. He watched them flee to Puerto Rico, rejecting Fidel's revolution. They didn't want to be part of the new Cuba. Like everyone, he watched them destroying a proud legacy with horror. It was the Bacardi family now working with the US, tightening the embargo, even helping to plan the bombing of the oil refinery.

But the story didn’t start like that. The hero of Cuban rum had the surname Bacardi. Facundo was the Spanish legend who came to Cuba to work. In those days, rum was a waste product that sugar producers made, overwhelmed as they were with leftover molasses. Facundo had first grimaced at the drink, and then designed a new process to draw fermented sugarcane juice through charcoal, leaving it in white oak. It was a new idea, and had changed Cuba forever.

Now they were gone, and it fell to Otis to start over. He was the chosen one, who knew what it meant to produce the world's finest rum. Now he started bringing in the sugarcane. Mashing. Boiling. Fermenting. Soon the oak barrels were full of aguardiente again. It would be another two years before the first batch would be ready. They would wait.

Papa and Otis were in La Bodeguita del Medio, again, when he asked the most difficult question of all. What is the best way to drink Cuban rum?

“Ah, but there are so many ways. A lime and some sugar, what a drink. Fresh mint and seltzer, incredible. For me though, bring the vermouths. Let them sit with my rum. Just a hint of grapefruit. That is my baby".

Such a drink can not be hidden away, out of sight. Now, in his honour, the Baby Otis, aged to perfection, awaits, again.

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