Hemingway and the frozen Daiquiri

Famous cocktails are almost never about the drinks, but the stories behind them. Perhaps the most of all variations of Daiquiri, the Hemingway Daiquiri, or Papa Daiquiri, is associated with a tale of revival about Ernest Hemingway.

Amongst Hemingway’s bibliography there is a noticeable 10 year gap between For Whom the Bell in 1940 and The Old Man and the Sea in 1952. The legend has it that while in Cuba Hemingway was in despair from the second world war, and was unable to write anything.

Then he came across the frozen daiquiri in a bar called El Florida. The slightly murky clearness beneath the ice reminds him of the sea, and the shaved ice in the drink brings to his mind the image of the layer of frozen ice covering the sea, broken by only a lone sail. Then it came to his mind that “man is not made for defeat.” “A man can be destroyed but not defeated.” So he wrote a story about a sail and a sea, an old man and a sea, The Old Man and the Sea.


This folklore may be categorized as cyberlore. I discovered it while researching about famous cocktails. It’s a recurring legend with varied details that comes up in many forums and articles. No authoritative origin can be traced.


The saddening aspect about legends associated with commercial products is that they might very well have been nothing more than advertisements. But alas, what does it matter? We want stories to believe in. We want to believe that these everyday objects in our lives have meanings beyond their own limited, trivial physicality. Perhaps the same can be said about ourselves.