Two teetotalers are facing off in the US’ presidential election on Tuesday. However, most of the nation will be drinking heavily on election night. Here, at Neat Pour HQ, we plan to pour the perfect drink for the occasion, El Presidente, a rum based Manhattan variation.
A rare Cuban stirred drink, El Presidente is a perfect blend of Rum, Blanc Vermouth, Dry Curacao, and just enough grenadine. The libation is spirits forward, but the blanc vermouth balances it out with bright and sweet notes, making for an ideal sipper.
“It’s a very light drink that does not have particularly challenging flavors,” explained rum writer Matt Pietrek (Minimalist Tiki). “Obviously I adore Cuban rum and this cocktail allows those flavors to sing without being eclipsed by dominant citrus or sugary flavors. Plus, I love cocktails that use Bianco.”
Many cocktail historians believe that the libation was created in honor of Mario García Menocal, president of Cuba from 1913 to 1921. However, like so many drinks, numerous origin stories abound, none verified.
What we do know about the El Presidente is that it originated in Cuba in the early 20th Century. The drink’s popularity diminished over the subsequent decades. The remaining incarnations were bastardized versions employing subpar vermouths of all varieties; the delicate dance of flavors was lost as a result.
Fortunately, cocktail historian & necromancer David Wondrich resurrected the drink during the Cocktail Renaissance.
“It was a forgotten legend of a drink. If it wasn’t for Wondrich, I think people would write it off,” recalled Konrad Kantor of NOLA’s Cuban drinks shrine Manolito. “He didn’t research it for the sake of research. He researched it because he realized something was wrong.. it should taste better [than the early 2000’s incarnations]… Dave had such respect for Cuban bartending. He realized that this is not the recipe, Cuban bartenders are better than this.”
Indeed, Cuban bartenders are better than that. Wondrich researched older specs and advocated for the importance of using quality ingredients akin to the originals and above all else the proper vermouth.
“Don’t use Dry Vermouth. Use white vermouth that’s not dry. Don’t use the stuff you would put in a martini. A lot of recipes will not specify Blanc; that’s not appropriate for today’s bartending world where we have options,” advised Pietrek. “A good grenadine also makes a huge difference. Don’t buy the Rose’s. A mature grenadine will add another dimension to the flavor profile.”
Kantor’s celebrated version utilizes a Blanc split of Alessio and Dolan Blanc and utilizes a 50/50 split.