Monday, November 5, 2012

A Sip of Cuba

I long to visit Cuba and experience the vibrant culture I love so much. My plans haven't arrived just yet so the next best thing after regularly bathing in Cuban rhythms, is dipping into Cuban cuisine. I visited Chicago's newest Cuban restaurant, The Lazy Parrot and discovered a few Cuban delicacies that I had never tried, namely Ironbeer. The name doesn't sound very appealing but when the owner and his cute daughter assured me that it was "the national beverage," I was intrigued.  Apparently, the soda was developed in Cuba in 1917 and contains a secret blend of fruit, herbs and spices that no one can ever put their finger on.

The soda's story of  a mule-driven wagon carrying the soda to popular Havana cafeterias is quaintly written on the back of the can. Only now, the soda is manufactured in Miami, where the original family was exiled. The muscleman logo doesn't hoist the 500 pound weights in the original logo but the flavor is said to be the same. I'm not a big cola fan and I figured the caramel -colored soda would taste something like a cola so I ordered Coco Rico, a coconut flavored soda, instead. I love coconut in all forms but after a sip of my husband's Ironbeer, I forgot about Coco Rico.  I was hooked on Ironbeer. The flavor is hard to describe but it tastes similar to cream soda, which I also love. The coconut soda was good but Ironbeer was great. The restaurant serves a range of Cuban sodas, including Jupina a pineapple soda, Materva, a soda made from yerba mate and Quinabeer, which tastes like champagne cola.  But I couldn't pull myself away from the Ironbeer, which I sipped under a mural of a Cuban sunset.


A Cuban In London said...

Right, disclaimer! I'm Cuban! Big disclaimer! I'm very, very Cuban! :-)

Never heard of Ironbeer. But the figure on the label looks ilke Hatuey. Go back to the joint and ask the owner and his daughter if they meant Hatuey. Hatuey was a native Indian who led an uprising against the Spaniards in the 16th century. He was burnt at the stake. When I was younger and still drank alcohol, Hatuey was one of my favourite beers. It was quite strong, although there was another beer that was stronger and also had the name of a native Indian.

As for Materva, that's Cuban cola, not mate. In fact mate has never been very popular in Cuba. It's more commonly found in South America and people in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Chile have it the same way British people have tea. I buy mate here in London from time to time and have a special gourd to drink it from. But Materva is the equivalent of Coca Cola which wasn't around when I was little on account of the embargo.

Thanks for the lovely post. I'm always glad to see how my country spreads itself around the world.

Greetings from London.

Fly Girl said...

Cubano, I don't think you need the disclaimer, lol! No, Ironbeer is definitely Cuban but it wasn't available once Castro took over. Cubans in Florida drink it a lot and the owners insisted it was one of the most popular Cuban sodas and I can see why.The Materva was described as mate to me and on various websites. I'm sure what constitutes mate is very relative, however.

Indrani said...

Interesting info.

Fly Girl said...

Indrani, I like to collect tidbits about unusual drinks and dishes when I travel.

A Cuban In London said...

OK, that's clearer now. There were a few drinks before Castro that were not available when I was younger. Thanks for that. :-)

Greetings from London.

Fly Girl said...

Cubano, there was a whole other Cuban experience before Castro that a lot of exiled Cubans cling to here. The U.S. travel bans to Cuba have been eased so I hope that more people can reconnect.

Anonymous said...
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bARE-eYED sUN said...

never heard of IronBeer, but now that i have, i'll be on the lookout.

meantime, that Coco Rico just got me in the moos for the ole stanbye . . .

thanks for an interesting post.


Fly Girl said...

Sun, Thanks for dropping by! Coco Rico was a delightful coconut drink, although I've never tasted anything coconut I didn't like.

Alex Pendleton said...

Interesting post - love your blog! :)

I want to visit Cuba too!

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