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Dreams are made of sun, sand, and Coco-Libres

Updated: Mar 24, 2023

The streets of Manhattan glisten as the reflection of the city lights on rain puddles queued melodic jazz. Strolling with my girlfriend, we were without a much-needed umbrella and desperate to seek shelter. The pitter-patter drum beat of the rain hitting the scaffolding was suddenly drowned out by a Latin flare. What at first seemed to be a mirage turned out to be el paraíso we were looking for, a bar called La Diáspora.

Walking in was like stepping into a time capsule of 1970s Miami. Gone were the melancholic milieu of Manhattan and in were the incandescent neon lights, banana leaf wallpaper, and Spanish chit-chat you'd hear on the beaches of coconut grove. Although there were no cocaine cowboys awaiting our entry, we were welcomed by the charismatic bartender named Walter.

Sensing our intrigue with the menu, Walter suggested that I try a refreshing take on a classic cocktail, the Coco-Libre. This drink was an obvious spin on the Cuba Libre, which is usually coke and rum mixed together in a highball glass and garnished with a lime. The drink dates back to the Spanish-American war where they chanted "Por Cuba Libre!" while downing the drink. As any historian will tell you, the real benefit of the war was the invention of this cocktail, and our modern-day scientist Walter dared to disrupt the invention once again. As he concocted the drink right in front of me, I asked myself would this be the drink to end my salado and force me to leave the dreary New York for the sun-drenched beaches of Havana?

The coconut's creaminess challenged the crispy texture of the cola. It was tango on my tastebuds, however, this cha cha cha was fleeting and lacked the complexity of a sweet serenade. Coconut Cartel was the rum used but you wouldn't find me trying to smuggle any of this booze. Notes of vanilla and caramel dance on the tongue before being washed out by the overly sweet ocean of coconut. The addition of coke only compounded this sweetness.

Although I ultimately found the drink refreshing, it lacked the complexity I enjoy but complexity wasn't why we were here in the first place. While I was certainly in no coconut craze, I instead found myself indulging in the tropical atmosphere I felt in the bar. La Diáspora prided itself on its lack of sophistication and enticed its guests to the simpler things in life. This was a place where you ordered your tequila shots and pleasantly found the glasses rimmed with salt. We didn't need to book a flight to Miami or Havana, we already found it here.

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