Constantí Ribalaigua, the Catalan who DIDN’T invent the daiquiri, for Pete’s sake

Of Tate Cabré, ethnicity, creativity, and talking dogs that shit up walls.

I hope the separatists don’t back away from their previously expressed belief that Francisco Pérez de los Cobos has “a brilliant CV“, because the PP-PSOE candidate for Spain’s Constitutional Court sounds rather livelier than some previous appointees. His observations regarding the obsessive exhibitionist onanism of (Catalan) nationalists are not just applicable to politics, as I was reminded by a piece just sent to me. It deals with Catalan Spanish entrepreneurs on Cuba and the email blurb (repeated later in the piece) leads off with a question that entices, not so much to read further as to beat one’s head against the floor: “Did you know that the creator of the daiquiri was a Catalan emigrant living in Havana?”

Experience suggests that claims linking an ethnic brand with the emergence of a particular admirable artefact are demonstrably false in the vast majority of cases and unverifiable in the rest. If nationalists can be divided into thieves and idiots, then I’ll leave it to you to determine whether the writer Tate Cabré–whose “research” (see her website for repetitions of the assertion) seems to have inspired the piece and who advertises Cuban holidays for Catalans–is a muppet or a mafiosa. But for this kind of nonsense–I’ll leave you to investigate the rest of the piece–to be divulged by a government devoted surely to normal people as well as the flashwankmob is stark raving mad.

Ms Cabré teaches journalism but doesn’t seem to have consulted the newspaperman’s Bible, which would have put her straight. Had she wanted to check her facts the old-fashioned way, she could have found any number of books that refute her story. For example, Rob Chirico writes in his Field Guide to Cocktails:

Although the locals had probably been knocking back rum and lime for years, in 1886 an American engineer, James Cox, and a Cuban engineer named Pagliuchi refined the rum and lime drink by adding cane sugar. When Admiral Lucius Johnson introduced the recipe to the Army Navy Club in D.C., in 1909, the Daiquiri was becoming one of the world’s most popular drinks.

Ribalaigua apparently made land (not the same as fer país) in 1914, so it looks pretty unlikely that he invented the daiquiri. Commonsense suggests, and a quick search demonstrates, that James (or Jennings) Cox and his Italian-ish friend weren’t involved in this unremarkable discovery either. The American family encyclopedia of useful knowledge shows that the drink was already known in Cox’s homeland in 1856:

Rum Shrub and Water.— Rum shrub is made from the juice of lemons, with rum and sugar, but oftener of the juice of the lime, rum, and sugar. Great quantities of lime juice with rum are imported from the West Indies, for the purpose of making shrub and other liquors. A small quantity added to water makes an agreeable beverage. Brandy Shrub and Currant Shrub are made in a similar manner.

And antfuckers, with or without Wikipedia, will observe that this concoction–also called grog or lime punch in English–had been in standard use in the British Navy since the Napoleonic Wars, and seems to have been introduced by Edward Vernon to his ships in 1740. They will at the same time warn that to claim that this mixture of readily available ingredients was invented by an English admiral rather than a Spanish barman would be just as silly and rather less sexy.

But wait, there may be some consolation for Cabré. Chirico again:

Constantino Ribalagua, the famed bartender at Havana’s La Floridita–nicknamed La Catedral del Daiquiri–blended the drink with shaved ice, thereby creating the frozen Daiquiri. Chief among the frozen Daiquiri’s adherents was Ernest Hemingway. Ribalagua specifically created a sugarless Papa Dobles for Papa Hemingway, who apparently could wade through a dozen of these at one sitting.

But frozen daiquiris had probably been drunk for some time previously, albeit under different names. In his moderately boisterous novel, Real pearls in false settings (1839), “Count de la Pasture”, late of the 18th Hussars, describes the consumption of lime punch with ice. It seems unlikely that more people will have not done so following the commercialisation of ice machines in the 1850s, and that it will have taken several decades following the adoption of “daiquiri” for it to occur to someone to request or offer for sale a frozen daiquiri.

So it’s probably safe to say that Constantí Ribalaigua ran a popular bar where wealthy foreign tourists drank daiquiris, and that by hook and probably by crook his name became associated with the drink. And that’s pretty good for a bartender from Mataró. Anything else is like a dog shitting up against a wall and telling onlookers it’s an architect.

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  1. The famous one-of-us-invented/discovered-it attitude. It seems that some people feel richer through it. How poor must they have been before!

    Under this light, Trevor, shame on you! You should know better than to treat the poor in this arrogant way.

    The truth will set you free does not apply: it’s an individual choice.

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