5 of the Most Influential Bartenders behind Famous BACARDÍ Cocktails

5 of the Most Influential Bartenders behind Famous BACARDÍ Cocktails

Rafael ‘Pappy’ Valiente

Edificio Bacardi
Edificio Bacardi | Clare Hodson | Flickr

A popular bartender in Prohibition-era Cuba, Rafael “Pappy” Valiente served as Bacardi’s first brand ambassador, pouring drinks at the elegant black and gold bar in the Edificio Bacardi, the iconic art-deco style building that housed Bacardi’s famous bar in Havana. Here, Pappy Valiente mixed a variety of classic BACARDÍ cocktails that made the location the favored cocktail lounge of celebrities and other prominent Havana tourists, including personal guests of the family.

Pappy Valiente regularly greeted tourists at the airport with a BACARDÍ cocktail, a custom that earned him the title of “the happiest salesman in Havana.” He would then invite visitors to the bar at El Edificio Bacardi, where he expertly crafted BACARDÍ Legacy cocktails such as the Mojito, Daiquiri, and Cuba Libre. Rafael “Pappy” Valiente’s skills as a bartender and brand ambassador helped Bacardi grow into a widely loved brand while further promoting Havana as a prohibition getaway.

“The Professor” Jerry Thomas

As his unofficial title suggests, “Professor” Jerry Thomas was an authority in American bartending. His recipes inspired multiple beloved BACARDÍ cocktails, including the Pasión Latina, White Lion Daisy, and Century Club Punch. In addition to aiding the development of modern mixology, Jerry Thomas blazed new trails in the style and artistry of bartending. His vibrant style and demeanor, which expressed itself in his love of flashy clothing, bare-knuckle boxing, art collecting, and traveling, helped him to elevate the craft of bartending to a respected creative profession.

Jerry Thomas was born in New York around 1830, at a time when cocktails typically consisted of little more than liquor sweetened with sugar. But by the time of his passing in 1885, Jerry Thomas had helped to fuel the development of modern cocktails such as Manhattans, martinis and a variety of fruit drinks, such as the Collins, fizz, sour, and daisy. He encouraged the popularity of these drinks by writing one of the first cocktail recipe books, variably titled The Bar-Tender’s Guide or How to Mix Drinks; Or The Bon-Vivant’s Companion.

Jerry Thomas left the East Coast for California early in his career, attempting to make his fortune as a gold prospector while working as both a bartender and minstrel show performer. In a San Francisco saloon, he developed one of his most iconic drinks, The Blue Blazer, which involved deftly tossing a stream of flaming whiskey back and forth between mixing glasses. Jerry Thomas eventually made his way back to New York, honing his craft in locations such as New Orleans, Chicago, and St. Louis along the way. His most popular bar was his establishment at Broadway and 22nd street, a lively watering hole featuring funhouse mirrors and pop culture caricatures by artist Thomas Nast.

Constantino Ribalaigua Vert

In 1935, Constantino “Constante” Ribalaigua Vert explained to American author Thomas Sugrue that “his only hobby is his work.” It is likely this level of dedication that earned him the moniker, “el rey de los coteleros,” or the “Cocktail King” of Cuba. While working in Havana, he invented more than 200 drinks and became popular among locals and tourists alike for his attention to detail and preference for freshly squeezed fruit juices.

papa dobles
Papa Dobles | Adrian Scottow | Flickr

As a child in the early 1900s, Constantino Ribalaigua Vert emigrated with his family from Spain to Havana, Cuba, where his father became a bartender at La Piña de Plata. Constante began learning bartending from his father at the age of 16 and discovered a natural talent; by 1918, he owned the bar. Constante renamed the bar “El Florida” as an homage to its numerous American patrons, and it was soon fondly known as “El Floridita,” which means “little Florida.”

Constantino Ribalaigua Vert played a large role in earning El Floridita the nickname, “el cuna del daiquiri,” or “the cradle of the daiquiri.” He developed several variations of the classic daiquiri, all of which specifically call for BACARDÍ rum and varying types of fruit juice. He also invented the Hemingway Special or “Papa Doble” for one of El Floridita’s most noteworthy patrons: Ernest Hemingway.

Eddie Woelke

Eddie Woelke initially rose to prominence as a bartender at New York City’s Weylin Hotel. During Prohibition, he took his craft on the road to various foreign locales, including Havana, Cuba. While working at the Sevilla Biltmore Hotel, he invented multiple classic BACARDÍ cocktails such as the El Presidente, a combination of BACARDÍ Superior, Noilly Prat vermouth, orange curaçao, and pomegranate grenadine inspired by Cuban president Gerardo Machada.

Fred Kaufman

Fred Kaufman was another famed bartender who made a name for himself at Havana’s Sevilla Biltmore. When Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., married stars of the silent film era, visited his hotel bar, he created the Mary Pickford cocktail in honor of one of Hollywood’s earliest leading ladies. Sometime after inventing the iconically pink mixture of fresh pineapple juice, BACARDÍ Superior, grenadine, and Maraschino liqueur, Fred Kaufman further perfected his skills as the head barman at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba. To commemorate its grand opening on December 30, 1930, he invented another classic cocktail after the same name.