I'm not saying I went to Cuba. But if I had gone, I probably would have spent most of the time eating lots of grilled lobster (the stripey Caribbean kind, not the red Maine kind) in paladares (restaurants run out of magnificent family homes) and over-consuming exceptional rum-based cocktails. As the birthplace of the mojito and the spot where Ernest Hemingway popularized the Papa Doble (a double frozen daiquiri), Havana would inspire any non-heretics to drink copious amounts of each. Again, I'm not saying that I went there, but if I had, these would probably have been my most memorable brushes with alcohol.
Mojito at the Hotel Nacional
Guests following in Frank Sinatra and Lucky Luciano’s footsteps stay at the Hotel Nacional. On a hill at the edge of the Vedado neighborhood, the old-school hotel has multiple great bars. The movie-set-ready patio bar is filled with customers lounging on wicker couches smoking cigars and drinking Cuba's signature: the mojito. Here, it's made with a heaping tablespoon of sugar, lightly muddled mint (the leaves are still recognizable, not pulverized like they are at some bars), white Havana Club rum, fresh lime juice and just a spritz of soda water. The most important part of a Cuban mojito is the straw. The hotel uses granulated sugar instead of simple syrup, leaving it up to the drinker to stir the sweetener into the cocktail as they sip.
Frozen Mojito at Doña Eutimia
At the end of a small, dead-end alley off of the Plaza de la Cathedral is this little bustling paladar serving homey, Cuban dishes like garlicky octopus and soupy black beans. Also on the menu: vibrantly green frozen mojitos. Made with fresh mint and lots of lime juice, the curvy goblets of spiked slush are mindbendingly perfect for a sticky summer night. If I had gone there and tasted one, I would currently be in the market for a blender just to make them at home.