Heaven in Havana

Heaven in Havana, with passion! “Havana Cultura” the inaugural annual Cuban cultural festival rocks little Beaconsfield for four days!

Music, salsa dancing, authentic Cuban cuisine, fabulous artwork and of course Cuban Rum captured the hearts and imaginations of hundreds of patrons who took part in this smartly run festival jointly hosted by the Tourist Board of Cuba and Havana Club. Participating restaurants including the Gladstone Hotel, Midpoint Bistro, the Beaconsfield and many others served up authentic specialties, with offerings of unique Cuban fare such as “yucca” (pronounced you-ka), an island staple, a versatile veggie that delights whether broiled, baked or barbequed. One of the main attractions was the Cuban rum of course! (although the Masterclass Instructor here from Havana was pretty easy on the eyes too)

The bartenders at participating bars and restaurants were all trained prior to the launch of the festival on the art of the signature Cuban cocktails including the Cuba Libre, the Daiquiri and the Mojito! We too were trained. As participants in the Cuban bartending Masterclass run by Miguel Angel Diaz Vargas, Havana Club’s Global Brand Ambassador, we learned about the history and the production of rum as well as how to create a host of authentic cocktails all using a variation of Havana Club rum.

We had two favorites; the Hot Daiquiri which includes a healthy dash of Tabasco and a champagne cocktail called a Mojito Royale (that would be Susanne’s favorite of course). Look for recipes below. We then had to take an exam! well ok, more like a mini-test and the recipient of the highest test score was to win a trip to Havana for four days, coming together with scores of other winners from around the globe. Alas, 85% was our best, not high enough to beat the 100% perfect score who went to Alec Balmer.

Check out the happy winner with Damien, the Corporate Bartender for Havana Club and Miguel the instructor flanked on either side.

On Saturday, September 27th, we had a full house in studio for our radio show, as Damien Domingez Peres , Miguel Angel Diaz Vargas, Ryan Powell and Forest Kenney all representing either the festival or Havana Club joined us for the full hour! which flew by! Here are a few facts about Cuban rum that we found interesting.

Christopher Columbus introduced the sugar cane plant to Cuba on his second trip in 1493. (His first trip was in 1492)

Sugar cane, the raw material is blended with spring water and is fermented with specially selected yeasts as one of the first steps to producing rum

The world’s first rum was called “tafia” which was an unrefined, rough spirit the pirates and swashbucklers used to enjoy, otherwise known as “Sailor’s rum” (1772)

1860 marked the birth of light rum, or rum as we know it today due to the introduction of the pot still.

Rum produced in Cuba ages much more rapidly than other spirits such as whiskey due to the climate; the high temperatures (average 26 degrees F) and high humidity (averages 80%)

Rum is aged in American oak barrels that previously held bourbon

“Maestro Ronero” is name used to call some-one who produces the rum, equivalent to a winemaker. To become a Maestro Ronero, it takes 15 years.

“Anejo” means aged

Havana Club produces a range of rums with the ultra premium Maximo selling for approximately $2000.00/bottle. Maximo is a blend of rum aged for 70-100 years.

Maxximo can be experienced at One and Opus in Toronto

Maximum way to enjoy good rum is neat, at room temperature and in a cognac glass.


Mojito Royale

1 Tea Spoon of Sugar
1/2 oz Lime Juice
1 Sprig of Mint
1 1/2oz Havana Club 7 Anos
2oz Sparkling Water
2oz Champagne
Directions: Muddle the sprig of mint, sugar and lime juice. Dilute them with sparkling water.
Add some ice cubes and Havana Club 7 Anos. Complete with Champagne and stir.

Hot Daiquiri

1Tea Spoon of Sugar
1/2 oz Lime Juice
1 1/2 oz Havana Club 7 Anos
1 Cayenne Chili Pepper or 2 Dashes Tobassco
Ice Cubes
Directions: Pour all the ingredients into a Boston Shaker. Shake for 30 seconds. Serve in a Daiquiri Glass

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