Havana, Cuba is the birthplace of the mojito thus the drink can be found on any menu of any bar in town. While on a recent trip to Cuba I made it my mission to find the best mojito in Havana. I was surprised how varied the mojito recipes were from bar-to-bar. With bartenders influencing the creation of each drink, no two mojitos were alike, which kept us in pursuit!
Here is an ordered list of my impressions, but please try your own quest and let me know what you think.
6. La Esquina De Dragones Bar
La Esquina De Dragones is a little outdoor garden bar around the corner from the Fábrica de Tabacos Partagás. It’s on the corner of Dragones Filled with mostly locals, I imagine back when cigars were being actively made at the factory (they are now made at a temporary location across town), this would have been a lively place come quitting time.
The mojitos were decent, however, the sugar was overly grainy giving it a strange mouth feel. Also, the mojitos took a while to make (I think they went out to go buy the mint!) The owner stopped by and asked us how he could attract more tourist to the bar, a sign of the times in Havana (hint: boot the multiple people telling us they can get us cheap cigars). For the price I’d look elsewhere, but who knows what this place will be like in a few years? It is, after all, a great space with lovely trees shading the brick patio and they were setting up for a singer. I’ll probably just stick to the beer next time.
5. Sloppy Joe’s Bar
Sloppy Joe’s has welcomed tourists for over four decades—during the 1940s and 1950s it was a magnet for American celebrities and tourists wanting to mingle with them.
It has been described by the Los Angeles Times as “one of the most famous bars in the world” with “almost the status of a shrine.” In 2013, the bar underwent a complete renovation after a fire left it abandoned for 48 years.
We found the mojito at Sloppy Joe’s to be overly sugary and did not enjoy it as much as others we had on our trip. However, later on we found out it’s possible to tell your bartender how you like it “strong, little sugar etc.” so keep this in mind when ordering. Finally, you can get a shot of Havana Club 7 Años for about 2.5 CUC. Put it on ice and enjoy instead!
Price: 4 CUC
4. Hotel Nacional de Cuba
How can I refuse a chance to visit a place that was the haunt of Lansky, Luciano, and once even held a mob conference? Hotel Nacional is filled with old photos of all the movie and music stars that once graced the halls.
Watching the bartender make the mojito, I was surprised to find it tasting watered down (Hinting that the rum itself was watered down). Maybe the mob still has an influence over the hotel after all? While I liked the mojitos better at Sloppy Joe’s, the history of this place kick it up a notch!
*Extra half goes for the location!
3. La Bodeguita Del Medio
Above the bar at La Bodeguita Del Medio is a quote from Hemingway: “My mojito in La Bodeguita, My daiquiri in El Floridita.” Given this, it seemed like the most likely candidate for the best Mojito in Havana, right?
Like all things in Cuba, don’t take everything literally. The quote was invented as a joke by the owners in the 50s to drum up business. The bartender seemed to like a heavy rum pour giving this mojito a strong rum taste. Still, I’d rank the mojito the third best mojito in Havana.
2. Saratoga Havana
Originally built between 1879 and 1880, the Saratoga Havana quickly became one of the best known hotels in Havana. The hotel was renovated in 2005 as a luxury hotel (it was preciously a shuttered boarding house), so the lobby bar and roof deck are in great shape. With breath-taking views of the city from its roof deck, it’s no wonder Beyoncé chose to stay here on her vacation in Havana.
The mojitos were not too sweet and served with a dash of bitters. In addition, the roof deck makes for a perfect place to light up a cigar and take in the city views making this my second favorite mojito in Havana!
Price: 5.50CUC (inclusive of a mandatory service charge)
1. El Chanchullero, the best mojito in Havana
Aqui jamás estuvo Hemingway (Hemingway was never here) reads the sign outside El Chanchullero, setting the tone for the type of establishment this place wants to be. Across the street from Plaza del Cristo and near the Capitol, El Chanchullero is just on the edge of old-town Havana.
The mojito was excellent, made with a dash of bitters to combat the sweetness causing it to break out of the Hemingwayish mold in a refreshing manner. In addition, the menu is filled with a variety of cheap (2~5 CUC) array of tapas and main dishes. Be warned though, this place is small and fills up fast! On one evening at ~9pm there was a line 20+ people deep. Come around 6:30PM to beat the rush!
Mojitos are not the only drink you should have while in Havana, Cuba. Below is a list of some other great finds:
- Despite the price, the daiquiris and rum old fashioned at Floridita are not to be missed (they were out of mint when we arrived, bast!). Additionally, Floridita claims to have invented the daiquiri. (6CUC)
- Close by, Monserrate Bar offers excellent rum manhattans and decent daiquiris for 4CUC
- ChaChaCha (near Museo de la Revolucion) offers a great spin on the mojito – their house drink is made with fresh pineapple juice (in loo of club soda) and is served in a copper mug. In addition, the Cubata (a Cuba Libre made with dark rum) makes for a refreshing mid-afternoon pickup. Serving great ceviche, this place should not be missed!
- The pineapple man at the flea market is awesome (back left corner)! He takes a whole pineapple, cores it and blends some of the slices with ice and adds rum upon request. Finally, he even gives you the leftovers in a bag! Perfect for walking around and looking at art (3CUC)