The El Presidente cocktail is a boozy Cuban drink that’s impressive and sophisticated! This rum spin on the Manhattan is truly unique.

El Presidente cocktail

Here’s a 1920’s slow sipper that’s begging to be part of your cocktail repertoire: the El Presidente cocktail! This Cuban classic never soared quite as high as the daiquiri or the mojito (or even the Cuba Libre), but it’s something special in its own right. It’s sleek and sophisticated, like a Cuban spin on a Manhattan but using rum instead. It’s got some special ingredients and comes out boozy, subtly bitter with a sweet and citrus nuance. After sampling nearly 200+ cocktail recipes, we’ve never had anything like it!

What’s an El Presidente cocktail?

The El Presidente cocktail is a Cuban mixed drink made with aged rum, vermouth blanc, orange liqueur (usually Curaçao), and grenadine. The drink was invented around 1910, named for the Cuban president: “El Presidente” means “the president” in Spanish. It was popular in Cuba in the 1920’s to the 1940’s, but is lesser known today: maybe because of the unique ingredients required to make it!

Most of the Cuban cocktails you know and love are sour cocktails: a combination of liquor, sweetener and citrus. But the El Presidente is completely different: a boozy stirred cocktail that’s more like a Manhattan. Here are the ingredients in the El Presidente:

  • Aged or golden rum
  • Blanc vermouth or Lillet Blanc
  • Grand Marnier or Orange Curaçao
  • Grenadine

Let’s break down these ingredients, shall we?

El Presidente cocktail

What is blanc vermouth?

When it comes to vermouth, most people know two main types: sweet red vermouth and dry white vermouth. But did you know there’s a third type of vermouth? Meet blanc vermouth aka vermouth bianco, as it’s known in Italy. Here’s what to know about this special type of vermouth and why it’s needed for the El Presidente cocktail:

  • Blanc vermouth is a semi sweet white vermouth: it’s both dry like white vermouth and sweet like red vermouth. The flavor is floral with hints of vanilla, and a subtle bitterness on the finish.
  • Do you need blanc vermouth in the El Presidente? Yes! We tried the El Presidente with a dry white vermouth, and it’s much too bitter.
  • What’s a substitute for blanc vermouth? Lillet Blanc is easy to find and works as a substitute.
  • How much does blanc vermouth cost? A bottle of Dolin Blanc Vermouth is about $16.
  • What drinks can you make with blanc vermouth? Try the White Negroni, or use it as a stand in for Lillet Blanc in the Vesper Martini.

Golden or aged rum brings a nuanced flavor

Many rum cocktails use white or dark rum. But the El Presidente cocktail uses a whole other category of this liquor: aged rum or golden rum! Aging rum for a few years gives it a complex flavor. Golden rum can have undertones of vanilla, coconut, almond, citrus, or caramel. The aged rum that we used here was Brugal Añejo Rum.

Can’t find golden or aged rum or don’t have it on hand? You can substitute dark rum in the El Presidente for similar flavor.

El Presidente cocktail

Orange liqueur: Grand Marnier vs Curaçao

The last main liquor in the El Presidente is the orange liqueur! This drink traditionally uses orange curaçao, but it can be hard to find. Here are a few notes on what else to use as a substitute:

  • Grand Marnier is your best bet. Grand Marnier is the highest end orange liqueur, and brings nuanced, sophisticated flavor. We had a bottle (because we like Grand Marnier cocktails), so we used it here.
  • Cointreau also works. Got a bottle for making margaritas or other Cointreau drinks? You can use it here too. The flavor is a little less nuanced and the color of the drink will be a little different because it’s colorless. But it still works!

Grenadine completes the drink

Lastly, you’ll need grenadine to complete the El Presidente! This bright red syrup brings a rosy color to the drink and a subtle sweetness. Here’s what to know about this popular syrup:

  • Grenadine is a sweet tart syrup used in cocktails that’s bright red in color. It’s made out of pomegranate juice!
  • Where to find grenadine? It’s easy to find at liquor stores, but look for all natural grenadine. Traditionally it’s made with artificial flavors. Or, you can make grenadine at home!
  • What drinks is grenadine used in? It’s most famous in grenadine cocktails like the non-alcoholic Shirley Temple and the vibrant Tequila Sunrise and Singapore Sling.
El Presidente cocktail

How to make the El Presidente cocktail

Got all the ingredients? That’s the hardest part in the El Presidente cocktail. It takes less than 5 minutes to stir together! Here’s what to do:

  • Stir together all ingredients in a cocktail mixing glass. This is a classic “stirred” cocktail where you stir the ingredients together instead of shaking them (like the Martini and Manhattan).
  • Strain and garnish. Strain the drink into a stemmed cocktail glass. Add a Luxardo cherry if you like to bring in more of the Manhattan vibe.
  • Don’t have a mixing glass? Use any glass or container you like to mix the drink, then strain it into the serving glass. Or, grab a cocktail mixing glass.

That’s it! Let us know if you try the El Presidente cocktail in the comments below, and what you think! It’s truly a special drink.

When to serve the El Presidente cocktail

The El Presidente cocktail is a sophisticated and boozy rum cocktail. It’s perfect for sipping as a:

  • Happy hour drink
  • Dinner party drink
  • Late night drinks drink
  • Guys or girls night drink
Print
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El Presidente cocktail

El Presidente Cocktail


  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 drink 1x
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

The El Presidente cocktail is a boozy Cuban drink that’s impressive and sophisticated! This rum spin on the Manhattan is truly unique.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) aged or golden rum
  • 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) blanc vermouth (or Lillet Blanc)
  • 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) Orange Curaçao or Grand Marnier
  • 1 teaspoon grenadine
  • For the garnish: orange peel and Luxardo cherry or cocktail cherry

Instructions

  1. In a mixing glass, add the rum, vermouth or Lillet Blanc, Grand Marnier, and grenadine and fill the mixing glass with a handful of ice. Stir until cold. Strain the drink into a cocktail glass.
  2. Use a knife to remove a 1″ wide strip of an orange peel. Squeeze the orange peel into the drink to release the oils. Gently run the peel around the edge of the glass, then place it in the glass and serve. Add a cocktail cherry if desired.
  • Category: Drink
  • Method: Stirred
  • Cuisine: Cocktails

Keywords: El Presidente cocktail

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Meet Sonja and Alex Overhiser: Husband and wife. Expert home cooks. Authors of recipes you'll want to make again and again.

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