Our waiter shook his head. “Not possible.”
Over in Centro Habana, La Bodeguita del Medio frantically mixes mojitos by the dozen and casts them into the crowd as if feeding the pigeons at Piazza San Marco. La Floridita pumps out daiquiris at a similar pace. Yet here at the Hotel Sevilla, the third member of Cuba’s Holy Trinity of cocktails has vanished.
The scene is the Roaring Nineteen Twenties. Jim Crow laws have been driving blacks into the northeast, thus spurring on the Harlem Renaissance. Soon, in Germany, a resistance to Jüdische Physik would compel scientists such as Einstein, Bohr, and Pauli to move to the United States. But between these two great migrations, another group was on the move. The axe-headed regime of Prohibition persecuted bartenders as cruelly as any religious or ethnic minority. These artists converged on nearby Havana, their literal haven. This scene was covered by Basil Woon for his 1928 classic “When It’s Cocktail Time in Havana”.
Among the many celebrated patrons in Cuba at this time were Charles Chaplin, Douglas, Fairbanks, and Mary Pickford, the international faces of the worker-owned production company United Artists. Chaplin’s face still haunts the graffitoed walls of Havana, but it was Mary Pickford who became the namesake for legendary Sevilla bartender Fred Kaufman’s longest-lasting creation.
Shortages are common around here. The Mary Pickford may be back in production soon, but our stay in Havana is brief, and we will have to miss drinking it at its birthplace.
We’ve made a Mary Pickford at home a few times. Here’s the recipe we follow:
1 part white rum
1 part pineapple juice
splash of grenadine
drizzle of maraschino
Sugary and feminine, so one must be in a certain mood. The limpid pinkness forms a stunning minimal surface with viscosity of blood.