Cuba Libre Cocktail Recipe

What do you think of the Cuba Libre?

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The year is 1898. The United States and Spain are at war over a small island in the Caribbean. Off-duty soldiers from the U.S. Signal Corps have gathered in an Old Havana bar to relax, and a soldier orders a rum and Coca-Cola on ice with a lime wedge. They toast ‘por Cuba libre!’ (free Cuba), and a legend is born.

Of course, there’s one problem with legends. Sometimes, they just aren't totally accurate.

In this case, while that basic story is accurate - or at least, sworn to by Fausto - it may be best to forget the part about 1898 and the Spanish-American War. Oh, the U.S. Signal Corps was in Cuba in 1898. Coca-Cola, however, was not. It wasn’t introduced in Cuba until 1900. (For the record, Fausto’s deposition gives the date of origin as sometime in August, 1900.)

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Cuba Libre cocktail recipe

  • 2 parts cola
  • 1 part rum
  • 1 lime wedge, for garnish
  1. Build rum and cola in a highball glass filled with ice.
  2. Serve garnished with a lime wedge.

Some variations of the recipe include the juice of one-half lime, usually to be the first ingredient added when building the drink. It’s delicious, but completely optional; the official recipe as listed by the International Bartenders Association (IBA) doesn’t include it. If you choose the lime juice variation, always go with freshly squeezed juice. Canned or frozen juice – or the stuff in those plastic fruit-shaped squeeze bottles – is always going to taste different.

If you’re going for total authenticity, Bacardi’s claim to be the original Cuba Libre rum is more than likely accurate, since in the early 1900s, Bacardi essentially was the rum of Cuba. (It’s distilled in Puerto Rico now.) To be totally correct, use Bacardi silver rum, not gold rum or 151.

No matter how hard you try, however, it will be impossible to completely duplicate the flavor of the original Cuba Libre, for one simple reason: the Coca-Cola recipe has changed since its original introduction. And it’s not just the loss of the famed cocaine content. In most areas, Coca-Cola is manufactured using high fructose corn syrup instead of real cane sugar. Whether that also changed the flavor is a matter of opinion, but if you’re going for authenticity, a real-sugar Coke would be closer to the original (in Mexico, Coke is usually made with sugar).

Cuba Libre variations

  • A Cuba Pintada (or Stained Cuba) is one part rum with two parts club soda, and just enough cola to slightly color it.
  • A Cuba Campechana (Half-and-half Cuba) is one part rum, one part club soda and one part cola.
  • When made with high proof rum, the Cuba Libre becomes the Cuban Missile Crisis.
  • A spicy version is the Hot Cuba Libre, which adds a dash of hot sauce.

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