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. And besides the Daiquiri and Canchanchara, it's also one of the most influential cocktails of our time that originates in Cuba.
Literally 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 find out the secrets behind one of the purportedly easiest-to-make and basic cocktails available on today's bar menus.
History of the Cuba Libre
After being freed from Spanish rule, 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 that well, it still paved the way for some prominent cocktail creations. The most famous ones are the Daiquiri and, of course, the Cuba Libre.
And not only American people arrived in the country, but they also brought common American goods with them - One of those was Coca-Cola. Eventually, the story goes, an American soldier mixed the sweet American soda with Cuban Rum and a splash of lime juice. And because the Americans were so closely connected to 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 coke stopped. Cuba had to make its own version of the lemonade and came up with a beverage called tuCola. TuCola is since then a common ingredient in the Cuban version of a Cuba Libre.
And on a personal note, the Cuban coke actually is super tasty, and I believe it would be a real competition if it were available outside of Cuba.
How to make a great Cuba Libre
For a long time, Bacardi claimed to be the ultimate brand when it comes to Cuba Libre. But actually, this was more of a clever and brilliant marketing move than anything else. During the time of the Cuban independence, the Bacardi Rum was available everywhere in Cuba. Therefore it often was used in a Cuba Libre. But honestly, when it comes to it, the brand doesn't matter that much.
Because I always aim to respect traditions, I highly recommend using Cuban Rum, though. 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 3 years and also Ron Santiago de Cuba.
For the coke, you obviously want to go with the original ingredient, Coca-Cola. However, to make it perfect, I recommend using the Mexican version of it if you can. This one is sweetened with sugarcane instead of corn syrup and blends well with Rum (which 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 requires a bit more. Fresh lime juice adds layers of depth and complexity to the drink. And the lime also helps to marry flavors. That's why it's a key ingredient in many cocktails and also in many cuisines.
But the lime juice is also the trickiest part because it depends so strongly on the individual taste. Some prefer just a splash of 5ml (1/6 oz) but others -like me- prefer a more hearty dose of 15ml (1/2 oz) of freshly squeezed lime juice.
- 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