A couple big names in the cocktail world are opening a small bar in New Orleans. Today, Nick Detrich and Chris Hannah (pictured with Eduardo Rivera Irizarri), announced that they are bringing Manolito, an El Floridita inspired Cuban bar to the Crescent City’s historic French Quarter.
“Manolito is inspired by several trips to Cuba that Hannah and I took,” explained Detrich. “We’re going to offer traditional Cuban dishes and drinks. It’s a way for us to bring the warmth and hospitality that we love in that nation to New Orleans.”
The 35 seat restaurant is a collaboration between Hannah, the 2017 James Beard Award winning Head Bartender of Arnaud’s French 75 (where he will also continue to work) and DK Hospitality, the management group owned by Detrich, co-founder of NOLA’s Cane & Table, and Konrad Kantor, co-founder of El Libre. Manolito will occupy the old, downtown El Libre spot.
Hannah described the spot as “small, but a great representation of the genre.” The concept is an homage to Havana’s golden age during the first three decades of the 20th century. During this time, the island redefined hospitality while creating timeless cocktails like the daiquiri.
The drinks menu will offer Cuban standards like the Daiquiri No. 4, Papa Dobles, El Presidente, along with a handful of original drinks. However, it is not just the cocktails that will make Manolito special; it is the style of bartending.
Manolito’s staff will work in the style of Cuba’s famed cantineros. “You’re going to see us preparing our drinks in the same fashion that we learned from Floridita’s bartenders,” Detrich told Neat Pour. “For example, blended drinks. Over there, its not just the presentation; it’s about all of the elements. Texture is most important also. They don’t just throw everything in a blender. They’ll slowly incorporate rum as the other ingredients are blending until you have an even swirl in the blender. The result is that you have an even texture in the drink as well.”
Even the classic Martini will be mixed in a slightly different fashion. The bartenders will employ the Basque technique of “throwing” this drink. (Throwing is a technique that involves mixing the cocktail by holding one shaker or glass to another in the air and pouring the drink several feet through the air—repeatedly.)
In Cuba, the cantineros are celebrated. Outside of the bar, the group is close knit society even boasting their own clubhouse.. “Cantinero is much more than just a style of mixing drinks. In Havana, they say, ‘Cantinero is a way of life,’” noted Hannah. “It’s also about poise, presence, and a respect for the history of the career. It all ultimately benefits the guest. I wouldn’t say that there is any one thing at the heart of it, but it definitely makes for a sublime hospitality experience.”
Few people expressed that spirit of hospitality better than Manuel Carbajo, the new restaurant’s namesake. Carbajo was a long time cantinero at El Floridita. He was also one of the first major Cuban spirits ambassadors that Hannah and Detrich met in Cuba. Both men were moved by their new friendship. “He taught me how to make the drinks properly,” recalled Detrich. “Unfortunately, he passed away in a tragic car accident over a year again. Since, he was sort of an ambassador of Cuban culture who affected us so much we thought it fitting to name the place after him.”
Carbajo’s influence will also be present on the menu. The cantinero also owned a restaurant renowned for their “Chicken Gordon Bleu.” So, Manolito will feature a signature chicken cordon bleu riff. In addition, food offerings will include classics like croquettas and ropa vieja.
Manolito is located at 508 Dumaine Street in New Orleans, LA. Opening is slated for the third week of March. Initial hours will be initially, 5-11pm and then expand to 11-11pm.