Want to throw the ultimate Cuban-inspired house party? Travel writer Anna Hart shares her tips below.
"Cuban parties are always full of energy," says Ciro Gentile, general manager at hip Cuban bar Casa Cuba in London. "There's the salsa music which keeps you moving, the cocktails that get everyone in the mood - and happy, smiley people are the main ingredient in any party."
So grab your friends, grab a few bottles of Havana Club, and read on...
1. Shake it up
"Cocktails are part of the game at any Cuban party," says Ciro. "Traditionally you've got the mojito, but don't forget the daiquiri, the mulata or the cuba libre."
Check out Havana Club recipes here and experiment by pairing rum with ginger, coffee, and even grapefruit and cinnamon. With a full fruitbowl, fruit juice aplenty, a freezer full of ice and a few bottles of rum, your party will never run dry.
2. Read up on your rum
You might want to read up on your rum, so that when you're muddling mint and ice in the shaker, you can keep thirsty guests entertained with your kickass knowledge of the rum-making process.
"Cubans are really proud of our cocktail heritage," says Ciro. "For example, the daiquiri was invented for the writer Ernest Hemingway at a bar in Havana you can still visit called El Floridita."
3. Cook up a Caribbean storm
"Cuban food is a mixture of fundamentally Spanish and African food with strong Taino (original Cuba inhabitants), Chinese and French influences," says Ciro. The good news is that Cuban cuisine is the opposite of fussy and fiddly; it's easy to cater for large numbers, because Cubans believe that cooking shouldn't get in the way of partying.
"When I'm throwing a Cuban party, my dish of choice is ropa vieja (which translates as 'Old Clothes'), a shredded beef flank in creole tomato sauce served with white rice."
Discover more authentic Cuban recipes here.
4. Have a mini-Havana
Cubans will re-purpose anything they can get their hands on when it comes to decorating their homes. Whether you're making your own placemats or creating vases out of tin cans, think bright colours and bold prints. For a fast, cheap way to revamp your home, Cuban flag bunting will instantly add a touch of Havana to any room.
5. Be the hottest host
Now stop thinking about everyone else and be selfish for a second! Cuban women are super-sexy, glam and vampish. Go for a vintage look, accentuated by cherry-red lipstick and a fedora. And for the men? Find yourself a guayabera, a traditional Cuban shirt that has four pockets, and you're good to go.
6. Soundtrack your night
"More recently, Cuban music has been influenced by Reggaeton (a fusion of Salsa and Afro-Cuban music with a touch of hip-hop) but don't forget the oldies - you can't go wrong with Buena Vista Social Club," says Ciro. Looking for inspiration? Check out Havana Cultura for some modern Cuban beats.
7. Move it move it
Nobody dancing? Anne Kapranos of Kapranos PR, who organises some of the craziest parties in town, has this advice: "Launch a three-pronged dance floor attack. First, rally a few of your most confident friends and get them to drag a guy or girl onto the dance floor. Say, "I need you to dance for the next two songs, that's all." Then get two or three more mates to do the same. Soon the number of dancers will multiply; it's simple dance floor maths. The final stage is to get up and do your most crazily awful dance moves so nobody feels embarrassed about their own dancing."
8. Cool down, Cuba-style
For instant Havana atmosphere, create a chill-out room showing Cuban films. Our top pick? Try Habana Blues - the story of two young musicians who land a deal with a Spanish record company, or 7 Days in Havana which includes short films about life in Cuba from seven different directors.
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