I had forever dismissed rum and coke as being the sort of thing drunk in 1990s nightclubs by people in white stilettos and Hush Puppies loafers who did not like alcohol. The truth is that the Cuba Libre, as a cocktail of golden rum, Coca-Cola and lime, is a very enjoyable long drink that, if given some care, is positively brilliant.
The Cuba Libre first saw the light of day in at the turn of the 20th Century, when the events went roughly like this:
- 1898: America-backed Cuban rebels fighting the Spanish-American War kick the Spaniards out of Cuba, and many of Teddy Roosevelt’s ‘Rough Riders’ hang around Havana, presumably enjoying the weather and the plentiful supply of cane sugar rum.
- 1900: America starts to ship bottled Coca-Cola to Cuba, and it takes literally ten minutes for someone to try mixing it with the local firewater to create the first rum and Coke. Lime is eventually added to offset the sugar, and the Cuba Libre is born. The Americans ship Cuban rum back to the States, and the Cuba Libre gains traction there too. They even sell it pre-mixed. The Cuba Libre is ascendant.
With everyone in Cuba and Florida completely trolleyed on rum and coke, it is not surprising that they forgot who invented the drink. The popular theory that does the rounds is that US Army Signalman assistant Fausto Rodriguez (aged 14) saw the first Cuba Libre poured for his boss Captain Russell in August 1900. Russell hald the drink aloft and cried:
“Por Cuba libre!”
Some US servicemen lounging nearby saw the new drink, ordered it for themselves, and it went all viral from there. Rodriguez, who later became a marketing bod for Bacardi, published a legal statement in Life magazine in 1966 stating his assertion to have been there on the day that two liquids became one. However, there are quite a few other tales that indicate that Rodriguez may have just been doing his job by creating a fuss on behalf of Bacardi. Heck, I do marketing for a living, and I can applaud the chutzpah of Mr Rodriguez.
The daft part comes in 1962 when John F Kennedy, in a moment of liberal lapse, extended the US/Cuban arms embargo to include all Cuban products. The Cubans returned fire with their own trade ban on Americana, which is the point at which their Chevrolet Bel Airs started to fall apart. The embargo meant that it was ‘technically’ impossible to make a Cuba Libre (which ironically means ‘Cuban Freedom’) either in Cuba or in the USA. Of course, inventive bootleggers found ways around that, but this is where the Cuba Libre cocktail makes its mark on the political history of the world. It took until 2015 for rum and Coca-Cola to legally cross the Gulf of Mexico and reunite the two critical ingredients of the Cuba Libre. Crazy shit.
The Nosey Chef has done some ferreting around for recipes for the Cuba Libre. The International Bartenders’ Association suggests golden rum, lime juice and Coke. However, this is forgetting that the recipe for Coca-Cola is not the same as the one available in 1900. Back then, Coke was a far more medicinal-tasting drink, so many bartenders add Angostura bitters to the Cuba Libre, and we agree. This makes for a far more interesting drink, and this is the version we present here.
If you want to see a Cuba Libre mixed by an impossibly hot Latino MILF, then you need to watch this (but her recipe is a bit off):
- 60ml Havana Club Especial rum (this is not the place for white Bacardi, people)
- 7.5ml freshly squeezed lime juice
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- 150ml Coca-Cola
Fill a highball with ice. Add all the ingredients and stir. Garnish with a slice of lime.