Monday, May 29, 2017

El Cubanito: The Cuban Bloody Mary

“Just keep writing, sweetheart.”

This phrase was repeated throughout my life, but especially during the last few years, when I enjoyed the privilege of spending a lot of time with my dad. Now, after a bit more than half a year, I return to the site that chronicled our last trip together just two weeks before he passed away. Because it was an honor flight honoring fellow WWII veterans, as well as Korean Vets, Memorial Day seems like the perfect time for remembrance and honor.   

Another favorite saying of my dad’s was, “Food is love!” And those of you who knew Tony, recognize that this sentiment was behind the driving force of our many dinners and fiestas. 
Yes, food is hugely important, but, as I've often done, I’m bringing cocktails into that mix! So here, mis amigos, is my first 2017 blog, written in honor of my dad, Anthony Gargagliano, who also urged me to travel, travel, travel...
The place: Havana, Cuba
The time: April 2017
The cocktail: The Cubanito, or the Cuban Bloody Mary

Maybe it’s because O’Reilly 304 shares its name with its street address—like my ol’ Mambo 64. Or maybe it’s because wandering around Old Havana makes one thirsty. But whatever the case, I found myself, after spending the day at nearby Santa Maria beach, wanting to explore something beyond mojitos and daiquiris. O’Reilly 304 fue perfecto!  

First of all, Havana Vieja had me delighted even before I set foot there; O’Reilly 304 was no different. The encantador (charming) staff and ambiente—despite the Tony Soprano reading a newspaper painting above the bar—reminded me of why I loved Havana.

After a brief discussion with the bartender,  and a “tour” of the bar menu, I opted for a Cubanito, which is a kind of Cuban Bloody Mary.  If you’re a fan of this ideal brunch drink (and hangover cure), I encourage you to try its Mexican cousins (click on the names to get to the recipes!)  the Bloody María,  a which I wrote about for LoHud a few years ago, as well as Sangrita, which I also wrote about for LoHud! Please know that if you or family members don't imbibe, you can always keep out the rum. 

So, here, my friends,  below the pictures, is the Cuban version of this brunch classic!  
I hope you’ll enjoy it—and please do let me know.
Bartender Encantador Starting the Cubanito.  (My dad's tocayo   relaxing behind him!)

He lights rosemary--for fragrance, and his special touch! 
El Cubanito--ready to be sipped! 

El Cubanito—Cuban Bloody Mary
This is my simple home-adapted variation of the Cubanito I tried at O’Reilly 304, pictured here! 

Serves 1

Lime segment  (for rimming), plus a lime cut into  quarters
Coarse salt for rimming, and also to taste
1/2 cup ice
1/2  ounces light rum (Havana Club Añejo 3)
5 ounces tomato juice
1 teaspoon  Worcestershire sauce
1 dash hot sauce, or to taste and/or fresh-diced jalapeño (Have fun with your spice! You can add a variety here--)
Parsley leaves, plus additional for garnish (optional) 
Pickled jalapeño, for garnish (optional) 
Tomato slice for garnish (optional) 
Rosemary, for garnish (optional)

Rim your glass--or jar as done in the picture--with a lime, and roll into salt to coat. 

Muddle your limes in the bottom of the glass. Add the ice, rum, tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, and  hot sauce (or jalapeño). 

Add your garnishes, and a colorful straw (to stir with, too!), taste, adjust, and serve. 


  1. glad to see you back in the writing/sharing game my dear!!
    I always thought Bloody Mary's looked like such a great thing to order, but I always HATED vodka. Just seemed like a waste of time. I mean, if you like liquor, drink real liquor!!! So, sadly, no Bloody Mary's for me!!
    Then, I discovered Bloody Maria's!!! why hadn't anybody TOLD me? The full deliciousness of a Bloody, with some REAL liquor in it!
    And, now....I have a new Bloody I can try out....EL Cubanito!!
    Why don't you and Seth come for a Fire Island visit soon, and you can whip some up!!
    Love to you and Seth and Soph and Wes....
    Again, so happy to see you back writing!!
    love billygoldner

    1. Billy! First, I apologize because I thought I had responded! Thank you for this sweet note and yes--so much more beyond the simple Bloody Mary; so many ways to make this beautiful brunch drink! I would be thrilled to whip some up for you any time! Lots of love back to you and the girls and and it would be so great to see you! LOVE, Arlen

  2. Reading this Arlen, I felt like I was sitting at the bar at O'Reilly 304, sipping a delicious Cubanito with you and probably talking about your Dad while we were sipping. Thanks for resuming your blog Arlen; you made my morning. I come from the school of "live to eat" not "eat to live" just like you and your wonderful family, so your blog will again be a great addition to my day! Thank you for sharing part of your Cuban experience with us!

    1. Jamie my dear, Thank you for this because you know I did want to bring you with me--literally! :) And you made my day(s) right back. Awww... Thank you and more to come. Wish you would come soon to visit us here in NY. Oh--Let's have another Barcelona reunion so we can visit, and I can write about that, too!
      Big hugs and love,