El Presidente

by Matt Robold on October 12, 2009

El Presidente Cocktail

The El Presidente is a Cuban-born cocktail from the Dark Days of American tippling – Prohibition.  The history of the cocktail is somewhat hazy, with several different bartenders credited with creating it in honor one or more Cuban presidents in various different bars.

The drink has often been lamented as a lost treasure from the heyday of Cuban mixology, when thirsty Americans – unable to quench their thirst for great cocktails at home – would sail from Florida to Havana.  While most people think of daiquiris and mojitos when they think of Cuba, there are quite a few great drinks that were poured for travelers – many of which have been almost completely forgotten.

Early this year I went on something of an El Presidente kick, making them just about every night for a few weeks.  The original recipe calls for a ratio of 2:1:1 rum to dry vermouth to curacao, with a half teaspoon of grenadine.  The problem is that while the drink is definitely palatable, it just wasn’t great at that particular ratio.

After trying so many, I came to the conclusion that the problem was the curacao, which was utterly dominating the drink.  The drink was too orange-heavy, and the rum, vermouth, and grenadine were bit players at best, completely lost at worst.  So I made a modification to how I made mine, and suddenly the drink went from “interesting lost cocktail” to “nightly home menu option.”

El PresidenteEl Presidente (modified)

1.5 oz Aged Rum
.75 oz Dry Vermouth
.25 oz Curacao
.5 tsp Grenadine

Stir with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with an orange or lemon twist.

I found out in a chat with Wayne Curtis (whose …and a Bottle of Rum introduced me to the cocktail in the first place) shortly after settling on this version of the recipe that he had drawn similar conclusions and also makes his El Presidentes with less curacao.  I also find the aged rum adds character too the drink and keeps it from becoming overly sweet.  If it’s still a little too sweet, consider adding a dash or two of bitters.

Question of the Day:

Tweaking classic or forgotten cocktail recipes has really grown to be one of my favorite past-times.  What twists or modifications to other classics do you really enjoy?

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