Ideal Cocktail – 1930s Cuban Recipe

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Ideal Cocktail – Sloppy Joe’s Recipe

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Course: DrinksCuisine: Cuban






Total time



Learn how to make an Ideal Cocktail


  • 1 tsp 5 ml Simple Syrup

  • 1 oz 30 ml Grapefruit Juice

  • 2 oz 60 ml Dry Gin

  • 1 oz 30 ml Dry Vermouth


  • Technique: Saxe Soda Shake
  • Combine all ingredients into a cocktail shaker.
  • Add one medium or two small ice cubes to the cocktail shaker and shake until the ice fully melts.
  • Without a strainer, pour the chilled and aerated drink into a glass.


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The Many Variations Of The Ideal Cocktail.

The Ideal cocktail was invented by Hugo Ensslin and is printed in his 1917 Book “Recipes for Mixed Drinks.” The ideal cocktail is a grapefruit variation of the martini, and you can see that in the way the cocktail changed over time. As Hugo saw it, a classic martini was what we would consider today to be a sweet martini. It is made of gin and sweet vermouth. During this time and more so into the 1930s, the dry martini becomes far more popular. Modifying Hugo’s original version based on the sweet martini, Jose Abeal (owner of Sloppy Joe’s) substituted sweet vermouth for dry vermouth (like the dry martini) but made up for the sweetness with a little bit of simple syrup. Grapefruit, dry vermouth, and dry gin are a bit much, and the drink needs a little sweetness to taste good. A clean and herbal grapefruit martini is more suited for a warm tropical climate.

The History Of Sloppy Joes Cuban Bar.

There are two famous pre-revolution Cuban bars. Well, there are at least two famous pre-revolution Cuban bars that printed books and provided future generations with their recipes—Bar La Florida and Sloppy Joe’s Bar, both in Havana, Cuba. Sloppy Joe’s was created by Spanish immigrant Jose Abeal. The 1936 edition of his book details his biography. Jose immigrated from Spain to Cuba in 1904, where he worked as a bartender for three years. He then moved to New Orleans, where he worked as a bartender for another six years, and then to Miami, where he worked for another six years. Upon moving back in 1918 to Cuba, he opened a liquor store and added a bar. When a few of his American friends visited, they commented on how dirty his store was. “Why, Joe, this place is certainly sloppy, look at the filthy water running from under the counter.” They were commenting on how he let the melted ice run all over the ground. His friends would call him dirty or sloppy Joe, and the name stuck. Jose sold classic American and Cuban drinks from his liquor store and bar and Spanish and Cuban food. One of the most popular food items he sold was a traditional Spanish picadillo sandwich. A loose ground beef sandwich where the beef is cooked with crushed tomatoes, Spanish olives, spices, and herbs became more commonly known as a sloppy Joe in the United States. Although Sloppy Joe’s Picadillo sandwich is nothing like the midwestern BBQ sauce covered, Manwich style sloppy joes most of us are used to.

A political revolution later, and Sloppy Joe’s fell on hard times. Now owned by the state and American tourists prohibited from visiting, Sloppy Joe only stayed open for a couple more years. The 1959 movie “Our Man In Havana,” starting Sir Alec Guinness, features some of Sloppy Joe’s in its prime before its business dried up. After a fire in 1965, the bar and store closed entirely with no real intention to ever open again. In 2013 though, the bar was restored, where it was, as it was, and currently sells the same drinks and food items as it did in the 1930s – 1950s.

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