The Hemingway industry is alive and flourishing in many places, but most of all in Florida. The number of bars in the Sunshine State in which Papa allegedly drank is only exceeded by the New England stopovers in which George Washington supposedly slept. Unlike Washington, of course, Hemingway was actually photographed in most of these joints.
Chronologically speaking, Hemingway’s Key West period was sandwiched between Paris (which he left in the late 1920s) and Havana, where he spent the majority of his later years. Visitors to the island can still tour the Hemingway Home and Museum, the sprawling Spanish Colonial house the author purchased in 1931. It was here that he met Charles Thompson, who introduced him to the sport of big game fishing; in 1934, Hemingway ordered the hand-built, 38-foot boat that became known as the Pilar.
The recently released Papa’s Pilar Rums constitute homage to this period of Hemingway’s life—an era that was miserable for most of humanity, but an absolute blast for the hard-drinking writer. There are two rums, the Blonde ($29.99, 84 proof/42% ABV) and the Dark ($39.99, 86 proof/43% ABV). The Blonde rum is made in a column still, and is aged between three and five years.
Sweet aromas of sugar cane, allspice and caramel waft up from the nose of the Blonde rum. The intriguing combination of sweetness and spice continues in the mouth, buoyed by a rich and substantial texture. The palate imprint is firm yet refreshing, and seductive flavors of cookie dough resonate on the long finish.
By contrast, the Dark rum is bold and dramatic, with a nose marked by scents of vanilla and molasses. The spirit coats the palate gracefully, yielding flavors of baking spices, honey and caramel, giving way to white pepper on the finish. This would make a delightful sipping rum, in addition to mixing very well in a variety of cocktails from a Cuba Libre to a Planter’s Punch.
Speaking of mixing, don’t forget to drink one for Papa. The Hemingway Daiquiri originated at La Floridita, the legendary Havana bar that served as the writer’s home away from home. It was invented by Catalan immigrant Constantino Ribalaigua Vert, who omitted the customary sugar in Papa’s version:
- 2 oz. Papa’s Pilar Blonde Rum
- .25 oz maraschino liqueur
- Juice of two limes
- Juice of one grapefruit
Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker with cracked or crushed ice. Shake vigorously and pour into a coupe glass; for a true papa doble, double the rum.
Mark Spivak is the author of Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History, published by Lyons Press (Globe Pequot); for more information, go to amazon.com