No visit to Havana  is complete without popping into Ernest Hemingway’s favorite watering hole, La Bodeguita del Medio ((Empedrado #207, tel. 07/862-6121, daily 10:30 a.m.–midnight), half a block west of the Catedral San Cristóbal de la Habana . This neighborhood hangout was originally the coach house of the mansion next door. Later it was a bodega, a mom-and-pop grocery store where Spanish immigrant Ángel Martínez served food and drinks.
The bar is to the front, with the restaurant behind. Troubadours move among the thirsty turistas. Between tides, you can still savor the proletarian fusion of dialectics and rum. The house drink is the mojito, the rum mint julep that Hemingway brought out of obscurity and turned into the national drink.
Adorning La Bodeguita del Medio’s walls are posters, paintings, and faded photos of Papa Hemingway, Carmen Miranda, and other famous visitors. The walls were once decorated with the signatures and scrawls of visitors dating back decades. Alas, a renovation wiped away much of the original charm; the artwork was erased and replaced in ersatz style, with visitors being handed blue pens (famous visitors now sign a chalkboard).
In 2010 it was undergoing yet another makeover. The most famous graffiti is credited to Hemingway: “Mi Mojito en La Bodeguita, Mi Daiquirí en El Floridita,” he supposedly scrawled on the sky-blue walls. According to Tom Miller in Trading with the Enemy, Martínez concocted the phrase as a marketing gimmick after the writer’s death. Errol Flynn thought it “A Great Place to Get Drunk.” They are there, these ribald fellows, smiling at the camera through a haze of cigar smoke and rum.