Preparation of cremat. Photo: Josep Renalias.

Preparation of cremat. Photo: Josep Renalias.

On fire. Catalan sailors have brought a lot of rum back from Cuba over the last few centuries, and tradition dictates celebrating sailors’ return with a beach party fueled by the cremat, Catalonia’s flaming caffeinated rum cocktail. Folks crowd the beach, sing songs called havaneres (also of Cuban import, though with Catalan lyrics) and dance, waving white handkerchiefs over their heads while the bowls of rum burn.

You may, of course, drink flaming rum without sailing to Cuba and back.

Cremat Recipe

In a wide clay pot, combine a liter bottle of aged rum (or a mix of half-rum, half-brandy), 2-4 tablespoons of sugar, the grated peel of a lemon, six coffee beans, and a cinnamon stick. Set this on fire with a long match. As it burns, sing five havaneres; when you’ve finished these, you may use a lid to squelch the flames. (Alternatively, you can put the fire out when about one-half to two-thirds of the liquid is left—the longer you wait, the more alcohol you burn off). Add two shots of espresso (optional). Serves eight.

Where’s the best flaming rum beach party? The beach of Port Bó in the town of Calella de Palafrugell in Costa Brava turns into a handkerchief-waving, rum-soaked party each year for the Cantada d’Havaneres de Calella festival, generally the on the first Saturday of July. Check the town hall’s website for information; there is a marginally comprehensible English version.

I happened upon the following singing of havaneres in the Gràcia neighborhood of Barcelona.