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WEINHEIM, Germany — No matter what you might think about communists, you have to give them this: They know how to drink.

Whether they drink to escape the reality of living in the world’s poorest nations or because the rum factory is the only business in town that hasn’t bolted its doors is anyone’s guess, but I’m not out on assignment to judge.

I came to Club Cuba, an often vivacious cocktail bar, for the joie de vivre, the paper umbrellas and, if all went right, the salsa.

The night, however, was less than boisterous. I think I know why: A Cuban exile would have to drift pretty far off course to find himself in soggy southern Germany.

To be fair, I’ve popped in on the weekend on occasion and couldn’t get a seat or even find space to shake what my momma gave me.

But on a Thursday night, Club Cuba is the kind of place dissidents could plot Castro’s demise with little fear of getting caught. It appears they planned on a crowd, though. All the good seats — groups of low couches and comfy chairs arranged around short tables — were reserved.

So I shunted myself into a corner on a wobbly stool, picked up my Che Guevara-faced menu and scrutinized the commie drink list. Dozens of fruity and creamy cocktails smiled up at me. I scanned down and found my mark. When the barkeep wandered over I ordered the Ernest Hemmingway Special.

He sauntered back behind the bar and went to work.

His liberally-buttoned shirt — which is to say maybe three of his eight or so buttons were buttoned — exposed his chest and stomach. He’s comfortable like this, I surmised, because the place is bedecked in palm trees and has a sort of vacation on the beach feel.

He ground the ice by hand, which seemed right as well. Does Cuba have electricity?

My drink showed up as I hoped it would — in a tall, curvy glass with a fat slice of orange and a chocolate skewered by a little paper umbrella, cold and fruity.

For the first hour, the only other customers were regulars. Two Germans, one in a plaid shirt that distracted from the Cuban vibe, discussed salad and car troubles while merengue bleated at a level low enough to allow for civil conversation.

But by 10 I got what I came for. A woman with dark hair and a dark tan stumbled in and the barkeep bellowed, “Hola Maria! Como estas?”

She beamed and broke into random, solo dancing and spoke to everyone as if she’d yet to discover her inside voice.

To see previous After Hours reviews, go to

Club Cuba

Prices: 4-10 euros for cocktails. Beer for less.Menu: Drink names in English, ingredients in German.Dress: Shirt and shoes required.Clientele: Germans of all ages, Spanish ex-pats.Entertainment: Latin music every night.

Directions: The address is Haupstrasse 133, Weinheim, Germany. Take exit 35 off the A5. The exit brings you briefly onto the A659, which changes immediately to the B38. At the first light take a right onto Mannheimer Strasse. Take this about 1.5 miles and turn slight right onto Bahnhofstrasse. Less than a quarter mile later, take another right onto Ehretstrasse. Take a left at the end of the street onto Dr. Bender-Strasse and follow the signs toward the Marktplatz.


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