Cuban-Themed Bar Opens in New Orleans

Toast to the city’s 300th anniversary

BY WAYNE CURTIS — Summer 2018

full three centuries have passed since some intrepid Frenchmen settled on the bend in a river, naming it New Orleans after their benefactor — which means there’s no better time to visit and celebrate the city’s persistence and determination.

One inviting place to mark the storied past: a tiny new French Quarter bar called Manolito. A stop here is also a way to quietly recognize one of the formative eras in the city’s past, when the Spanish ruled New Orleans between 1762 and 1803, largely from their base in Havana.

Two of the bar’s founders — Nick Detrich and Chris Hannah — traveled frequently to Cuba in recent years, along the way befriending a coterie of cantineros, a sort of club of experienced bartenders who have kept alive the tradition of refined Cuban service and traditional drinks-making. Manuel Carbajo, a bartender at the renowned Havana bar El Floridita, had been particularly instrumental in guiding the pair through the intricacies of Cuban bartending. So when Carbajo died in a car accident in 2017, Detrich and Hannah, along with local bartender Konrad Kantor, set about creating a bar to honor Cabajo and the elegance of his hospitality. With the permission of his family, they christened it with Carbajo’s nickname.

Manolito opened in the spring, imbued with a raffish sort of timeworn sensibility you’d find in Havana. “We wanted it so it looked like people had been smoking in here for 30 years,” says Detrich.

Plenty of American bars have embraced a Cuban theme, with mojitos and photos of old cars and a soundtrack by Buena Vista Social Club. But the three partners wanted to create a place that did more than that and honored Cuba’s traditional hospitality, offering a salute to the cantineros and their professionalism.

Manolito is intimate at best, with just six seats at the bar and room for about 30 more seats between the cozy downstairs and a doll-house-size mezzanine. But the drinks are outsized in flavor, including Cuban cocktails such as the artfully blended El Floridita daiquiri (made with a splash of maraschino liqueur), along with other Cuban classics such as El Presidente.

So step in the door, order a drink that suits, and raise a toast to a complicated city that has survived three centuries, three nationalities, and dozens of floods and hurricanes.

Here’s to 300 more. 504-603-2740; manolitonola.com

EL PRESIDENTE

(as served at Manolito)

2 ounces Banks 5 Island rum
1 ounce Dolin Blanc vermouth
1/4 ounce Pierre Ferrand Curacao
1 bar spoon grenadine

Combine ingredients in a glass with ice, then “throw” the drink between two glasses 5-7 times. Strain into a coupe. Garnish with a cherry.

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