Heritage

Cuban Fruit

| By François Monti

The Mamoncillo, king of agridulce fruits

Today, we decide to tell you a little more about some very special Cuban ingredients

Cuban cocktail culture was shaped by the meeting of international bartenders and local cantineros in the first half of the XXth century. At the Havana Club Cocktail Grand Prix 2014, you will learn all there is to know about yesterday's greats and work alongside the cantineros that are perpetuating this proud tradition today. All we ask of you in return is that you help us in the challenge we set up: we're on a quest for the next Cuban classic. But what do we mean by ‘Cuban'? There will be rum, of course. You'll find inspiration in the classics of a glorious past, no doubt. However, what we really expect of you is to come up with creative drinks calling for specifically Cuban ingredients, sourced on local markets and produce stands. Obviously, you'll find key limes, grapefruits or coconuts… Others, however, are less known. Today, we decided to tell you a little more about some of them. 

Mamoncillo: The fruit of tree of the Sapindaceae family, which means it's a relative of the lychee although its green, round-ish skin makes it look like lime. It's quite rigid and need to be cracked before it reveals its orange pulp. Flavour is often described in Spanish as agridulce, sweet and sour. Some are indeed sweet but others have a tangy taste. It's widely consumed all over Central America and the Caribbean. How can you use it? Well, it's up to you, but apparently, in Mexico it's sometimes consumed with salt and lime and in Colombia, they mix it with honey. In Cuba, the mamoncillo is popular over the summer and the flesh is often boiled to obtain a juice that can be used in homemade fresh drinks. It's called mamoncillo because the easiest way to eat the fruit is to suck it (mamar, in Spanish).

Nispero: This tree, scientifically named Manikara Huberi, is principally used for its latex, but its fruits are also very popular. It's a yellow-ish ovoid drupe and its flesh has a very appetizing honey colour when mature. In spite of its low calories, it's a very sweet fruit, which explains why it's used in desserts all over the Caribbean. When the fruit is good, it literally melts in your mouth. In Cuba, some call it the fruit of the gods and an author compared its taste to ‘a field of wild flowers'. Not inspired yet?

Guanabana: Also known as soursop, the guanabana looks like the pineapple evil twin, with it's green, egg-shaped and menacingly prickly fruits. However, it is very popular in the Caribbean and known for its wonderful aromas. The flesh is white-coloured and acidic. In Cuba, it's the basis of a very popular drink: the champola de guanabana, a sort of milkshake sometimes prepared with condensed milk. It is also juiced, used in sherbets or eaten raw. Can't you see it in a, erm, Guanabana Ron Fizz or something?

Sugarcane: OK, OK… This is not exactly a lesser-known plant, is it? But sometimes, we tend to forget some of the most obvious sources of inspiration. The sugar cane, brought over the Atlantic by Columbus on his second voyage, is of course the plant that made rum possible. Thing is, in Cuba, you will be able to do something that is not very easy to do in the rest of the world: take a fresh cane, juice it and… And what? As you know, Cuba's original cocktail, the Canchanchara (http://www.havana-cocteles.com/the-canchánchara), can be made with fresh cane juice instead of honey or sugar. It gives your drink an incomparable flavour. Just make sure you don't let the juice ferment (the process starts very quickly). Or maybe you want to let it ferment? It's up to you, really. We're willing to be amazed…

You will find the complete list of the Cuban fruits that we ask you to use at the Havana Club Cocktail Grand Prix finals below. Interestingly, the winner of our wildcard will have a head start on his fellow candidates: to come out on top at our online contest, you need create a drink calling for one of our fruits. And since none other than Meimi Sanchez, Anistatia Miller and Jared Brown will judge your recipe, if you're the lucky one, you will know you have what it takes to win in Havana next June. You're just a couple of clicks and a recipe away from the week of a lifetime!

 

Cuban Fruits for the Havana Club Grand Prix:

Cherimoya (custard apple), Lychee, Mangoes, Bananas, Avocados, Guava, Papaya, Coconut, Tamarind, Key lime, Persian lime, Grapefruit, Pineapple, Nispero (medlar/loquat), Guanabana (soursop), Ciruela china (Guaya cubano), Caimito (star apple), Mamoncillo, Mamey ,Granada (pomegranate), Sugar cane, Mandarin oranges, Sweet juice oranges and Sour oranges Lemons.

  • 1 The Nispero, AKA the fruit of the gods
  • 2 The Guanabana, AKA the pineapple evil twin

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