When Looking at a Cuba Libre, many people only see an ordinary mixture of Rum & coke garnished with a wedge of lime. But the drink is so much more than that.
Besides the Daiquiri, the Mojito and recently also the Canchanchara, it's also one of the most influential cocktails of our time that originates in Cuba.
Translated, Cuba Libre means free Cuba. A popularized term after the Spanish-American War, celebrating liberation and independence from Spain.
But why was this particular drink named after this significant event? And what does it take to make a proper traditionally Cuban Cuba Libre?
Read on to learn the secrets behind one of the purportedly easiest-to-make and basic cocktails available on today's bar menus.
How to make the perfect Cuba Libre
For a long time, Bacardi claimed to be the leading brand when it came to making the perfect Cuba Libre. But naturally, that was more of a clever and brilliant marketing move than anything else.
Rum for the Cuba Libre
When Cuba won independence from Spain in 1895, Bacardi Rum and Coca-Cola were available everywhere in Cuba. Therefore those two were the common choice for the Cuba Libre Cocktail.
Even though I don't necessarily think it has to be Bacardi, I like to respect traditions and recommend using Cuban Rum for this drink.
The best type of Rum to use in this Cuban cocktail is light, bright, and crisp. Bacardi works very well, indeed. But so does Havana Club 3 years and also Ron Santiago de Cuba.
For the coke, you want to go with the original ingredient, Coca-Cola. However, to make it perfect, I recommend using the Mexican version - if you can get a hand on it.
Mexican Coca-Cola is sweetened with sugarcane - instead of, for instance, corn syrup in the US. It blends particularly well with Rum since that is also a sugar cane product. You can get this coke in Latin-American supermarkets. Or you can buy it here online.
The fine line between mixing a Rum & Coke or a Cuba Libre is drawn by the third ingredient - lime. While Rum & Coke is usually garnished with lime or lemon wedges, the Cuba Libre needs fresh lime juice.
The citrus juice adds depth and complexity to the drink and helps to marry flavors. That's why lime juice is a key ingredient in many cocktails and cuisines.
Opinions are divided regarding how much lime juice a Cuba Libre needs. Some prefer just a splash of 5ml (1/6 oz) but others -like me- prefer a more citrus-forward taste and 15ml (1/2 oz) of freshly squeezed lime juice.
If you like to get even more complexity into your drink, you can add one or two dashes of Angostura bitters.
History of the Cuba Libre
After having been freed from the Spanish regime, the Americans took over as the new country controlling and regulating Cuba.
Back then, Cubans celebrated their new "freedom" with the slogan Cuba Libre. Although that situation didn't age well, it paved the way for some prominent cocktail creations. The most famous ones are the Daiquiri and the Cuba Libre.
When the Americans arrived in Cuba, they brought common American goods with them - One of those was Coca-Cola. And as the story goes, an American soldier mixed the sweet American soda with Cuban Rum and a splash of lime juice.
Since the Americans were associated with the liberation of Cuba, it only made sense to name the drink after it.
When the situation between Cuba and the US became more complicated, the supply of Coca-Cola stopped. Thus, Cuba had to make its own version of the lemonade.
They came up with a beverage called tuCola, which since then has been the standard choice coke in the Cuban version of the Cuba Libre Drink.
By the way, this Cuban coke is super tasty, and I think it would be serious competition to Coca-Cola if it were available outside of Cuba.
- 1 Jigger
- 2 oz Light Cuban Rum
- 4 oz Coke
- 0.5 oz Lime juice
- 1-2 dashes Angostura bitters
- 1-2 wedges Lime
- Add the freshly squeezed lime juice into a collins glass filled with ice.0.5 oz Lime juice
- Pour in the Rum, add one lóf the lime wedges, and give it a quick stir.1-2 wedges Lime, 2 oz Light Cuban Rum
- Fill the glass up with coke and quickly stir the drink.4 oz Coke
- Add another lime wedge as garnish and finish it off with a dash of Angostura bitters.1-2 wedges Lime, 1-2 dashes Angostura bitters
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