Cuban cocktails have been well-known throughout the world since the island became a popular tourist destination more than half a century ago. They compete in popularity with Cuban music, food and dance — and even the old cars that today maneuver through Havana’s streets.
This year, the theme of the 18th edition of CubaNostalgia in west Miami-Dade is dedicated to the three drinks that are a staple of any Cuban celebration, both on and off the island: the daiquiri, the mojito and the Cuba Libre.
They will all flow when CubaNostalgia kicks off Friday at the Miami-Dade County Fair Expo Center at Tamiami Park. The three-day event, ends Sunday and celebrates Cuban Independence Day from Spanish rule.
“We hope everyone comes out to toast to Cuba’s most famous cocktails,” said Leslie Pantin, founder and president of the festival, which every year attracts thousands who want to recall the pre-Revolution Cuba.
This year, the Miami Herald/el Nuevo Herald booth recreates Havana’s iconic, El Floridita restaurant, the craddle of the daiquiri. Parked in front of the eatery will be an antique 1950s automobile. The facade includes photographs and memorabilia of the original restaurant. In the background there will be a set that mimics the Cuban beaches, where Sunshine Health will hand out samples of non-alcoholic coconut water.
Also being honored is the famed mojito, the favorite cocktail of customers of La Bodeguita del Medio, another legendary restaurant in Old Havana, whose fame grew with the drinking routine of writer Ernest Hemingway: “My mojito at La Bodeguita and my daiquiri at El Floridita.”
“You do not always have the opportunity to recreate a place so meaningful and identifiable to all Cubans,” said Jorge Noa, of Nobarte, the firm that designed the installation. “We’ve tried to highlight the elegance that became legendary of El Floridita and today continues to enchant visitors.”
So what are the ingredients of these famous drinks? The daiquiri is a mixture of rum, lemon juice, sugar and crushed ice. The mojito differs in that it contains fizzy water, a sprig of mint and ice cubes. The Cuba Libre simply mixes rum, cola and lemon.
Cuban music and dance will also be featured at numerous festival booths. Confirmed artists include pianist Daisy Celia Almiral, the musical group Soul Havana and Cuba on Fire, which will perform a tribute to Cuban dance co-produced by Luis Celeiro. This year, visitors can compete in a Cuban dance contest for a $500 prize, redeemable in airline tickets.
Among the celebrities who will appear and sign autographs are cooking show host Lucy Pereda (Saturday, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.) and salsa singer Willy Chirino (Sunday, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.).
“CubaNostalgia is a way to get in touch with our traditions and pass them down to younger generations,” said Pereda, who will showcase a “virgin” daiquiri.
This year, each section of the fair will honor Cuba’s Ladies in White. Miami members will be on hand.
Among the Cuban painters displaying their work in the Artists Plaza is Spanish-language radio personality Ninoska Perez Castellón, whose artwork centers on Cuba’s patron saint. Others showing their work include Tony Mendoza, Dania Sierra, Humberto Benitez and Hilda Hernandez.
But a walk through the fair would not be complete without stopping to taste café cubano, arroz con frijoles negro and picadillo. The festival is also a place to purchase old vinyl, films, postage stamps and books and other Cuban memorabilia.
Follow Arturo Arias-Polo on Twitter: @arturoariaspolo
If you go
▪ Where: Miami-Dade County Fair Expo Center, 10901 SW 24th St.
▪ When: Friday and Saturday (11 a.m. -11 p.m.) and Sunday (11 a.m. -10 p.m.)
▪ Cost: $12 for adults and $6 (under 12 years).
▪ Information: 305-929-9710 or www.cubanostalgia.org.