Ideal Cocktail – Sloppy Joes 1933 Cuban Variation

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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. A classic martini as Hugo saw it was what we would consider today to be a sweet martini. Made of gin and sweet vermouth. It’s during this time and more so into the 1930s that 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 makes up for the sweetness with a little bit of simple syrup. Grapefruit, dry vermouth and dry gin is a bit much and the drink needs a little sweetness to taste good. The result is a clean and herbal grapefruit martini more suited for a warm tropical climate.

Sloppy Joes Cuban Bar

There are 2 famous pre-revolution Cuban bars. Well I should say there are least 2 famous pre-revolution Cuban bars that printed books and provided future generations 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 1904 where he worked as a bartender for 3 years. He then moved to New Orleans where he worked as a bartender for another 6 years and then to Miami where he bartender for another 6 years. Upon moving back in 1918 to Cuba he opened a liquor store and added a bar. When a few of his American friends came to visit 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 just run all over the ground. His friends would call him dirty or sloppy Joe and the name stuck. From his liquor store and bar, Jose sold classic American and Cuban drinks, 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 it 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 use to.

A political revolution later and Sloppy Joe’s fell on hard times. Now owned by the state and American tourist prohibited from visiting, Sloppy Joes only stayed open for a couple more years. The 1959 movie “Our Man In Havana” starting Sir Alec Guinness features some of the last videos of Sloppy Joe’s in its prime before its business dried up. After a fire in 1965 the bar and store closed completely 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.

The Most Important Part

There really is no special trick to this one, just shake it like you would any normal cocktail you shake. What is important is to get it as cold as possible so that the tart and dry herbal flavors are softened and chilled. Shake it till the tins frost over. Only then is the drink as cold as ice. If its under shaken or chilled its a bit too tart and it should be consumed fairly quickly. All drinks should be but this one more so.


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Ideal Cocktail – Sloppy Joes 1933 Cuban Variation

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Course: DrinksCuisine: Cuban






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Learn how to make an Ideal Cocktail


  • 1 tsp Simple Syrup

  • 1 oz Grapefruit Juice

  • 2 oz Dry Gin

  • 1 oz Dry Vermouth


  • Combine all ingredients in the shaker. Add ice to the shaker.
  • Vigorously shake till the shaker is ice cold and frosted.
  • Strain into glass to remove ice shards.

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