Cuban ‘embassy’ bar serving mint-muddled diplomacy


Cuban cigars go well with a mojito. (Desmond Boyland/Reuters)

The Cuban Interests Section — which essentially functions as the Cuban embassy, though you can’t call it that, since the United States don’t have normal relations with the country — last year opened a Hemingway-themed bar. Since then, the bar, which is open during invite-only events, has earned a reputation in diplomatic circles for serving what might be the best mojito in town — if you can score one.

“The secret ingredient is spearmint,” says Jose Pertierra, a Cuban lawyer who lives in Washington and has swilled a few of the cult-famed concoctions. In less authentic establishments, mojitos might be made with any old mint, but spearmint, we’re told, is essential to the real article.

Wayne Smith, a former chief of mission at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, says the “mean mojito” and the bar’s focus on Ernest Hemingway — beloved by both Americans and Cubans — are savvy politics. “Stressing the links between the two countries is smart,” he says.

The Cubans apparently hope that communism goes down a little easier when it’s accompanied by fresh fruit juice and an icy splash of soda.

And the hand-rolled cigars — which invitees can puff with impunity on the grounds of the complex on 16th Street NW south of Columbia Road — are also said to be world-class.

Emily Heil is the co-author of the Reliable Source and previously helped pen the In the Loop column with Al Kamen.

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