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Light rum, vermouth, and grenadine are constants in the Presidente, but the fruit flavoring varies. Cuba may have secured its place in cocktail history by contributing the Cuba Libre, daiquiri, and Mojito to the world, but during its heyday sparked by Prohibition, the island’s bartenders created dozens of splendid drinks to sate the palates of the hordes of visiting tourists. The Presidente, or El Presidente, was named for the now-forgotten president of Cuba, General Carmen Menocal. Credit has been given to La Floridita’s famed bartender Constantino Ribailagua for popularizing the Presidente, but other sources point to the Vista Alegre as the first watering hole in Havana to have served it. The Savoy Cocktail Book and others call it the President. Although Herbert Hoover described the cocktail hour as “the pause between the errors and trials of the day and the hopes of the night,” and although Roosevelt’s penchant for the Dirty Martini is legend, the present era of seeming presidential cocktail indifference would beg the case for keeping the name El Presidente.
You may substitute half sweet and half dry vermouth for a sweeter drink, and as is typical of drinks with sweet vermouth, you would add a maraschino cherry to it. Light and dark rum may also be used. Some recipes call for pineapple juice. Ignore them.