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People sometimes pick up vermouth blanc, called bianco vermouth in Italian, and don’t realize until the open the bottle that the vermouth is sweet, when they thought they were buying dry vermouth. Don’t worry if it happened to you; it happened to a friend one mine too, who happens to be a notable spirits writer. On the upside, you’ve now got one of the principal ingredients for one of my new favorite cocktails, the El Presidente.

According to an article, Cuba Meets Chambéry on the Hauz Alpenz website, the first El Presidente recipe was published in 1915 in a book called the Manuel de Cantinero, a bartender’s manual in Spanish by John B. Escalante. The style of vermouth blanc isn’t Cuban, but was invented in the French alps, in Chambéry, and due to its ability to do double-duty as a sweet and dry ingredient, it has a particular affinity for rum and Latin spirits.

This El Presidente is the best argument for globalization I’ve heard, or tasted, and comes from Julio Cabrera of Café La Trova in Miami. It bridges together the caramel, toasty flavors of rum with the orange brightness captured in a good-quality triple sec. A dash of grenadine bolsters the fruitness, and the strong elderflower and vanilla notes of the white vermouth give the cocktail a légèreté, or lightness that doesn’t overwhelm, but enhances.

El Presidente cocktail

Although there are several versions of this cocktail out there, this is the best one I've had, from Julio Carbrera, who owns Café La Trova in Miami. This recipe has been adapted from one that appeared on Punch Drink and Garden and Gun magazine. In this drink, Cabrera recommends using a golden rum (such as Bacardi 8 or Banks 7), or one that's light amber in color. I didn't have a rum that fit that description so poured a rum that leans more toward the dark side. Dolin vermouth blanc (or Comoz) are also recommended, as is Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao Triple Sec.
Servings 1 cocktail
  • 1 1/2 ounces golden rum, (dark can be used)
  • 3/4 ounce vermouth blanc, (white or bianco vermouth, not dry)
  • 1/2 ounce triple sec, preferably Pierre Ferrand Curaçao (or Cointreau)
  • 1 barspoon (1/2 teaspoon) grenadine syrup
  • 1 orange twist
  • 1 maraschino or amarena cherry, for garnish
  • Add the rum, vermouth, triple sec, and grenadine in a cocktail mixing glass. Fill two-thirds with ice and stir until well-chilled, about 15 seconds.
  • Strain the mixture into a chilled coupe or cocktail glass. Hold the orange twist over the drink with the colorful side facing down, and squeeze the peel, misting the surface of the cocktail with flavorful orange oil. Discard the peel and garnish the cocktail with the cherry.


    • robert

    well. this is something. i’ve researched this cocktail before and learned new things today.

    i’m curious when escalante’s “manual del cantinero” made its way back into the light of day. it seems like the scan you linked to was uploaded in 2016. i haven’t found any earlier references.

    all of which is fascinating because there have been some arguments about the origin of the cocktail. as of right now wikipedia states:

    “There are two rival stories of who the cocktail is named after. One is Mario García Menocal, President from 1913-1921. The other is Gerardo Machado, who was a General and also President from 1925-1933.”

    escalante’s manual is not mentioned; but seeing as it was published a decade before Machado became president somebody should really get on that.

    incidentally, the malecon (another cocktail of cuban origin) may be found on wikipedia. the manual del cantinero is mentioned; but dig through the edits and you’ll find this wasn’t always the case. citation wasn’t included until february 3rd, 2019. prior to this, the article stated:

    “The Malecon Cocktail is named after the El Malecón, the winding beachfront avenue atop the seawall in Havana, Cuba. The avenue has inspired two different cocktails, an original version from 1941 and an updated version from 2007.”

    so crazy. the discovery and inclusion of this cocktail manual in the canon is allowing us to rewrite history.

    i’m so glad you wrote about this cocktail.

    • Kathy

    I just discovered that the Dolin vermouth we’ve been using for our Martinis is Blanc! Uh oh!!! On the plus side, we can make the El Presidente tonight!

      • Leu2500

      But did you like it? Early on in its history the martini/precursor to what we know as a martini was made with sweet vermouth.

      • J_Gittes

      Nothing wrong with using blanc vermouth in a martini. I do it all the time and it’s delicious!

    • Sheila

    I’m looking forward to trying this one! I purchased a bottle of Dolin blanc to make a Golden Negroni with Amaro Angeleno. Love that and love having something new to try.
    Thanks also for the helpful guidance on the rum.

    • Janet

    I’m guessing the dash of grenade was your computer’s auto-correct idea…

      • Margo

      …comes the revolution…!

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Oops! Actually grenade is the French word for pomegranate, so it was a cross-cultural “misunderstanding” (on my part) – fixed : ) !

        • J_Gittes

        Is that where the english word for the explosive comes from, I wonder? The nasty little incendiary does bear a striking resemblance to the crimson comestible.

    • Matt R.

    My favorite rums for this are actually Rhum. Agricole Vieux from Martinique. Highly recommend trying this with Clement VSOP or Rhum JM Eleves Sous Bois.

    • Jessica

    Divine. Made it with Koloa dark rum from Hawaii, Contratto bianco vermouth, and Cointreau. We’ll definitely make this again.

    • PeggyP

    It is delicious, and very smooth. We used Cuban rum. Everything blends well, you can taste the rum, the orange and the sweetness of the grenadine is perfect! Thank you for wonderful recipe.

    • Ben M

    Made this tonight, and it was very tasty. Coincidentally, I have the same Plantation rum you used on your livestream today. It struck me a bit like a rum old-fashioned. I used homemade anancello for the triple sec.

    You mentioned people buying bianco vermouth by mistake, but I was told at the liquor store that they actually ordered it by mistake–twice. I was lucky, as they hadn’t meant to carry it. I then spotted a nearby bottle of Mathilde Cassis from France, which I also picked up–it should be useful as I delve deeper into Drinking French, which arrived today. I used your grenadine recipe for El Presidente.

    Thanks for a great drink (I’m not using the other word in case of possible spam filter rules), and I look forward to further exploring the book!

    • Eliza

    This looks delicious! I have eyed the Dolin Vermouth Blanc at the store but wasn’t sure what to use it in. I will definitely get some and give this a try! I have been making Pegu Club cocktails from your recipe and enjoying them very much. You are so charming on IG Live! Thanks for all the great recipes.

    • Seb Guy


    Fixed! -dl

    • Jan

    Forget the cocktail (sorry!) and tell me about that exquisite glass. Please. I don’t drink much and rarely a cocktail, :-( , but I would use that for almost anything else.
    I do love reading about these cocktail–very enticing.

    • jenniferc

    this was way too delicious David – what a treat, esp with my homemade grenadine (also from Drinking French) thank you for sharing

    • Sal

    Most elegant tasting version of this cocktail I have tried so far. Nice write up on blanc vermouth. All I knew was the Dolin blanc made a nice martini with Hendrix gin

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      The Dolin blanc is very interesting and delicious. Someone in the spirits business told me to try it with watermelon, which I plan to do.

      • J_Gittes

      Hendrix gin? He didn’t just play a mean guitar?


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