by Mark Marowitz
[Mark Marowitz is a special correspondent for the Museum of the American Cocktail, and was in recent correspondence with William Knight, who is attempting to document a cadre of bartenders from Cuba known as the "Cantineros Club".]
Every once in a while a story comes along that is so compelling, so interesting on so many levels and of such relevance to what the museum is all about that I can barely contain myself for the joy it brings me. Such a story is The Last of The Cantineros, a soon to be (cross your fingers) feature film by William Knight.
Today we are discussing the possibility of creating an accrediting academy or a governing body for mixologists that would be similar to the Court of Master Sommeliers. Cuba saw the need for this in the 1920’s! The Cantineros Club, an association of "elite barmen", was the governing body, if you will, for the barmen of Cuba.
Serendipity plays a crucial role in the how’s and why’s William became interested in his subject. In 1999, while in Cuba on an assignment, William found a book written by a Cuban journalist and Rum historian, Fernando Campoamor. The book conjured up a time of when Los Cantineros ruled supreme and displayed the artistry of the profession. Fernando was long gone but the book mentioned Fabio Delgado Fuentas ("Papa") and the last president of The Cantineros club, Elio Moya. These guys are so amazing that William became obsessed with filming them and all the old Cantineros before they die.
In 2002 William filmed Fabio making cocktails in 9 old bars around old Havana, also meeting a few of the younger barmen. The Cantineros Club was disbanded after the revolution because of it’s "elite" nature. Today, instead, there is an Association of Cocktail Makers.
William hopes to return to Cuba this Spring (2007) and film another part of the documentary. Sadly, Papa is gone! William is desperate to document the remaining Cantineros. His feature film, sort of a compilation of all the shorter documentaries, has no release date. This project has been self-funded and difficult to keep alive. For William it has been a lonely struggle. We have posted a link to his wesite (Last of the Cantineros) at the end of this article. Please visit the site and tell me that you are as moved as I was visiting it for the first time. There is a link to contact William on his website. William has requested that you write to him, at the very least, because he needs all of our moral support. There is a DVD ("Cuban Cocktails") available from his first trip (2002). Unfortunately, at the moment it is available only in Spanish.
Links to further information: