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Por Cuba Libre!

The Cuba Libre, a drink made with Coca-Cola and Cuban RumjWhen facts are fuzzy, folklore takes over.  Such is the case with Cuba’s legendary cocktail, the Cuba Libre, about which legends abound.  Created at the turn of the last century, and made famous in America during World War II, the Cuba Libre, frustratingly for purists, was rendered tricky to execute in both America and Cuba because of trade embargoes.  But as relations warm up between the United States and Cuba the Cuba Libre seems poised to give both the mojito and the daiquiri runs for their money.

Legend says that Teddy Roosevelt’s volunteer cavalry Rough Riders invented the Cuba Libre, but fact-checkers dismiss this as unlikely since Coca-Cola did not arrive in Cuba until two years after their departure from the island in 1898.  But it seems likely that it was the American soldiers who occupied Cuba during the Spanish-American war who came up with the idea of combining fine Cuban white rum with the American soda pop and a generous squeeze of lime juice.  Cuba Libre might have faded into the mists of obscurity had someone not sealed its fate by hoisting his glass and toasting, “Por Cuba Libre!” or “Free Cuba!” 

The Cuba Libre made its way to the United States where its popularity soared during World War II thanks to the Andrews Sisters’ hit song, “Rum and Coca-Cola,” and the scarcity of other bonded liquors compared to the affordable and available Caribbean rum.

I had my first “genuine” Cuba Libre in Moscow, where, happily, you can get all of the necessary ingredients.  It was made for me by a raging snob about Caribbean rum: a Russian television personality who had grown up in Latin America and just returned from reporting there with several bottles of real Cuban rum.  One taste was all it took to understand why the purists were so frustrated.  Although Bacardi claims 80 million Cuba Libre cocktails have been drunk since 1900, sadly, few of them have featured the signature sweetness and potency of Cuban rum.  Here’s hoping that changes soon!  Por Cuba Libre!

Even if you can’t get your hands on real Cuban rum, you can enjoy a Cuba Libre or one of the many riffs on the basic recipe.

Cuba Libre: The Basic Recipe:

2 oz of white or golden rum (best quality you can find)
4 oz of Coca-Cola
1 half of a lime
Fill a Collins glass with ice, and then squeeze the lime into it.  Add Coca-Cola and rum and stir to combine.  Slice the remaining lime and add if you like more citrus.

Riffing on the Cuba Libre:

The Gringo: Anathema to any Cuban, substitute Captain Morgan’s Rum and Vanilla Coke.  Skip the lime.
Peru Libre: Substitute pisco for rum.
Cuban Missile Crisis: Substitute 75% proof rum for regular.
Witch Doctor: Substitute dark rum for light and Dr. Pepper for Coke.  

Alexander+Roberts are pioneering travel for Americans to Cuba.  Join us on one of our escorted tours, such as such as Undiscovered Cuba.

Posted: 9/21/2015 3:18:09 PM by Alexander + Roberts