Cuba, 1963. You’re a journalist on assignment on this foreign island, surrounded by machine gun-toting militants. Any time you ask them anything in your meager broken Spanish they puff stinky, sweet cigar smoke in your face. All the while mega Soviet missiles are aimed at your country, ready to launch at the slightest sign of a dictator temper tantrum.
What do you do?
Get drunk. Surely the pretty-boy president was hitting the bottle when that tense little period, the Cuban Missile Crisis, was going down. And while JFK was savoring his favorite beverage, the dainty daiquiri, reporters on the frontline were downing another rum-based cocktail.
The Periodista: the name is Spanish for “journalist,” a toast to any writer’s ego with a concoction potent enough for grown-ups with more developed tolerances. It consists of dark rum, apricot brandy, orange liqueur and lime juice. Vintage cocktails are certainly trendy, yet this Cuban ditty remains a bit obscure. It’s outshined by unpronounceable vixens such as the Caipirinha and for too long has lived in the shadow of the mainstream Mojito.
“Often we take Mojito-weary rum lovers into this classy expression of a cocktail,” writes Jackson Cannon, bar manager at Eastern Standard[528 Comm. Ave., Kenmore Sq., Boston. 617.532.9100. easternstandardboston.com] in an email. The key to his cocktail is fresh lime juice instead of Rose’s lime cordials, which makes the drink overly sweet, good only for “novice drinkers and sunburn victims.”
Anyone I ask about the elusive Periodista mentions French/Cuban restaurant Chez Henri [1 Shepard St., Cambridge. 617.354.8980. chezhenri.com]. The drink is listed above the Mojito on the list of tropical cocktails. The first sip is lightly sweet, smooth and refreshing. To the bartender’s credit, each element is perfectly proportioned: the dark smokiness of Gosling’s, the sweetness of the brandy, the citrus of the Triple Sec and the sourness of the lime.
Missiles? Eh, no big deal. Communism? Why not give it a try? Another Periodista? Yes, please!
The Periodista is not listed among the impressive cocktail offerings at the B-Side Lounge [92 Hampshire St., Kendall Sq., Cambridge. 617.354.0766. bsidelounge.com]. But the bartender happily indulges me when I ask, clearly familiar with the drink. The taste is a tad sweet, making me think they used Rose’s lime—which the bartender confirms. Still, it’s damn good.
Investigative drinking takes me next to the West Side Lounge[1680 Mass. Ave., Cambridge. 617.441.5566. westsidelounge.com]. Again, the Periodista is not listed on the menu but the bartender whips it up without direction or hesitation. Though I prefer Gosling’s dark rum, he uses Mount Gay and it’s a respectable liquor. The drink is more sour than sweet this time around, which makes me think he used fresh lime juice, perhaps a bit generously.
It seems hard to make the Periodista poorly, perhaps because of the solid combination of flavors that define the drink. While revival cocktails are hip, this one is darn right swank. It’s like your VIP press pass: Flash it to any knowledgeable bartender and you’re in.
Cheers, then, to all those hard-working journalists in foreign lands. Raise one to Castro, too—the Cuban cocktails we enjoy probably all had something to do with that Commie curmudgeon.