Arbat bar rekindles Cuban love affair
Russians fell out of love with Cuba when the Soviet Union imploded. Cuba now hopes to win them back with rum cocktails, fine cigars and a little help from Papa Hemingway.
Cuban cigar and rum exporters plan to open a Floridita bar on Moscow`s busy Arbat pedestrian street in May, modeled on American writer Ernest Hemingway`s favorite drinking haunt in Havana.
It will try to capture some of the glamour of 1940s and 1950s Havana, when the Floridita was frequented by Hollywood stars and Mafia bosses.
There will be daiquiris and mojitos served round the clock, a Habanos cigar shop, a restaurant and live Cuban music, said John Rose, an American marketing executive and director of the new bar.
"We want to bring an authentic Cuban experience to Moscow. We hope it will become the hippest place to sip, smoke, supper and swing," he said.
The opening was announced during this week`s Cuban cigar festival by the bar`s owners, Havana Holdings, a partnership between British entrepreneurs and Cuban companies, which launched the award-winning Floridita London in 2004. Havana Holdings plans to open Floridita bars in Madrid and Dublin later this year.
In Moscow, the Floridita will have a large cigar cafe in the building`s basement, which once housed Leo Tolstoy`s printing press.
"Russia fell out of love with Cuba when we became very anti-communist, and we saw Cuba as a country which we poured zillions of rubles into and got nothing back," said Russian journalist and radio show host Artyom Troitsky.
But Cuba is coming back into fashion in Russia thanks to the popularity of Cuban music. "Che" Clubs, named after guerrilla legend Che Guevara, have opened in several cities.
"Russians love to drink and smoke," Troitsky said.
Cuban cigar maker Habanos, a joint venture between the state-run tobacco industry and French-Spanish tobacco group Altadis and a partner in Havana Holdings, sold 1.5 million cigars to Russia last year and sees plenty of room for growth.
Russia has no restrictions on smoking in public. Cuban rum exporter Havana Club, a joint venture with France`s Pernod Ricard, the second-largest spirits group, is also counting on the popularity of Cuban cocktails to boost its market in Russia. Havana Club sales have grown 15 percent a year in the last decade competing against Bacardi.