Tag Archives: Cuban

The Legend of the Cuba Libre…

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The Cuba Libre the epitome of a classic cocktail – it is 114 years old after all! Better yet, it has not only stood the test of time, but today it remains one of the most ordered cocktails across the world.

But for a drink some only know as ‘Rum & Coke’ to have lasted so long would’ve required some rather important factors;

  • A colourful history
  • Simplicity
  • Fantastic taste
  • The use of a world class Mixer

Now simplicity doesn’t always work, and let’s be honest, a colourful history could be good or bad. But mix the good kind of colourful history with simplicity and then blend in the great taste of a classic American mixer then you have formed the perfect storm, in cocktail terms at least.

I’ll be honest here; The Cuba Libre’s success is in no small part down to its drinkability and the fact it’s mixed with arguably the most famous mixer in the world, Coca Cola, is no mistake.

As you can probably already tell, the Cuba Libre is my favourite cocktail. Whilst you’ll rarely see me order one when out and about, as they are so easy to make, at home they’re pretty much all I drink.

Give me a well-made Cuba Libre and I’ll be a happy man.

So let’s look at the facts:

The History of the Cuba Libre…

cuba libre 4

The history of the Cuba Libre cocktail is well documented as being around the turn of the 20th century – when cuba won it’s freedom after the American-Spanish war of 1898. It’s said that after the war ended, around August 1900, Captain Russell (of the US Military) ordered Bacardi Rum with Coke and a slice of lime. The name of the drink was coined when he toasted the phrase “Por Cuba Libre” – For a free Cuba. This phrase was of great political significance at the time, especially as it was used by both American and Cuban citizens alike. Whilst Bacardi Rum is no longer ‘Cuban’ rum (they vacated the Island back when the American Prohibition hit hard) they are still considered the Rum of choice when ordering a Cuba Libre or, as it is better known; “A Bacardi & Coke please”…

Simplicity & the taste of America…

Coca Cola is unequivocally American. Any American will tell you that Coca Cola is as much a part of the USA’s history as the Wild West and JFK, with some of the older memorabilia selling for $100’s with some more specific items fetching far higher prices! The fact that it’s so simple to create; combined with the classic taste of America and the history surrounding the cocktails’ creation means it’s not that surprising it has, arguably, become one of the most famous cocktails of all time.

An Advocate for slow sipping…

The Cuba Libre can be a pleasure when well-made and should always be enjoyed sip by sip; especially, if like me, you like to use it to help taste the finest of rums. I find that Cola helps bring out some of the better flavours of golden/dark rums and this for me not only means I get to enjoy a rum without the burning feeling of the alcohol, but also allows me to spend more time enjoying it. The use of Cola takes a drink that would be over far too soon and lengthens it to perfection.

So whilst this cocktail is certainly a classic, especially when Bacardi is used, it also allows people like me to enjoy the rum they love for longer, by allowing us to sip it slowly over a greater amount of time.

And finally; the two Cuba Libre’s that matter:

The Original (1900) Cuban Recipe…

Recipe:

1 measure Bacardi Gold Rum

3 measures Coca-Cola (bottled*)

2 lime wedges

Method:

  • Build over ice and drop in the Lime wedges for garnish.
  • For an added lime kick, squeeze the juice out of the lime and into the drink before putting the wedges in. Remember to stir before serving…

This recipe is as close to the original as today will allow, with the problem being that Bacardi vacated Cuba shortly after the USA took over. They relocated production to Puerto Rico & Mexico and have rightly had the title of ‘Cuban Rum’ removed from their current products. However if you want a taste of a current day ‘Cuban’ Cuba Libre then check out my favourite recipe:

‘True Cuban’ Cuba Libre:

cuba libre 1

Recipe:

1 measure Havana Club Especial (Gold) Rum

3 measures Coca-Cola (glass bottle*)

2 wedges lime

Method:

  • Squeeze one of the lime wedges into your ice-filled glass.
  • Then pour in the rum.
  • Top up with the Coca-Cola and then stir.
  • Drop in the 2nd lime wedge, put your feet up and sip away.

*It’s no secret that bottle Coca-Cola tastes better than Canned and this is not a coincidence. Using glass bottled cola is the best way to enjoy it in my opinion, and it is definitely the better of the 3 types for the ultimate Cuba Libre. However any Coca-Cola will do just fine.

The Cuba Libre – A classic cocktail for the new era.

 “The Cuba Libre requires Bacardi rum and Coca Colatm with ice and a wedge of fresh lime. Why? Because that’s how an original Cuba Libre has always been made – at least since 1900, when American soldiers on Neptuno Street, Havana, first persuaded a barman to mix his precious Bacardi rum with their tasty new beverage called Coca Cola” – Bacardi’s description of the Cuba Libre on their website. (http://www.bacardi.com/uk/Cocktails/BACARDI-Cuba-Libre)

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Old Havana Skyline, taken by Wikimedia Commons/Flickr user Gabriel Rodríguez.

The Cuba Libre has all the mysterious history you need from a classic cocktail and then some. Now I’m not saying it’s because of this that it’s actually considered a ‘classic cocktail’ but you have to admit the uncanny similarities to some of the other classics (Mojito, Martini, Margarita etc…).

The one thing that the Cuba Libre has in its favour though is its base spirit: Rum. Rum, as any well-to-do person will tell you, has a mysterious history all to its own. It just so happens that the Caribbean (that’s the collection of islands that includes Cuba would you know) is arguably the best place for premium quality rums anywhere in the world. Whether it’s the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Trinidad or even the ‘Rum King’ Island known as Barbados, the rum used in Cuba Libre’s has traditionally been of the best quality full stop (little wonder it’s become a classic then eh?).

The Recipe:

So traditionally it was made using Coca Cola, a Premium quality Cuban Anejo Rum and a wedge of Lime to freshen the drink up a little. However recently (mainly due to the lack of any Cuban rum in my repertoire) I have been trying out different brands and styles of rum both to find my favourite, and also because it is a simple recipe to stick to and easy to tweak without destroying the original idea…

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As you can see it keeps to the simple and balanced nature of the classic cocktail, but also packs a great taste (just try it if you don’t believe me)…

Of course there are many variations, more variations than the time I have to write them down for you, and some include different types/brands of rum. From the classic white(light) rums  to the semi-aged golden and Aged ‘Dark’ rums of the Caribbean and even the spiced rums (Captain Morgan’s, Kraken etc.) which have become more and more popular over recent years here in the UK…

The last time I got paid (just after Christmas) I went out and stocked up on some quality rums that my local Sainsbury’s had on offer at the time (and I also got a bottle of Makers Mark, but that’s a story for another time)… The Rums purchased/received as presents were;

–          Brugal Ron Anejo Rum £20-25 (I got it on offer for £16.99)

A Golden (semi-aged/aged) rum from the Dominican Republic; considered to be of a very high quality.

–          Kraken Black Spiced Rum £18-23 (depending on store)

Imported from the USA, Kraken comes in a glorious pirate themed bottle and denotes a giant squid (hence the ‘Kraken’) on the label. It’s a high quality black spiced rum and it tastes magical, which is probably why it has gathered quite the cult following. This was a very well received present from my sister for Christmas.

–          Bacardi Oakheart  £18-19 (£12 – offer price when I got it)

My soul reason for buying this bottle of rum was the price. It was a mere £12 at the time (worked out around £10.80 after my discount) and I just could not pass that up (considering its usual RRP is around £18-19!!!)…

Also I was a little wary because whilst Bacardi is a quality product, I feared they had created something that might not work (needless to say I was very, very wrong!).

Anyway, back to the recipes;

                So I tried a Cuba Libre using a 2-1 (Rum-Lime) ratio and topped up with a cola (Pepsi as it’s my favourite but feel free to change that to your favourite). Needless to say you do get 3 very different tasting drinks.

The Brugal Anejo Cuba Libre is as close as a Classic Cuba Libre these recipes got, purely in the way of geographical accuracy (Dominican Rep. is as close to the Havana Club style Anejo I have) and I imagine it’s similar in tastes to a classic Cuba Libre too. Whilst not the best when mixed with Pepsi, if you use Coca Cola like the classic recipe requests, it becomes sublime. And as a classic Cuba Libre (if you don’t have any Cuban rum) then this is the recipe I suggest you use!

The Bacardi Oakheart Cuba Libre was a standout favourite among my friends and family, with its smooth taste blending with the lime and Pepsi better (in their opinion anyway) than the Brugal Ron Anejo. The Bacardi was obviously made for cocktail mixing; such is the way with their other rum products.

The Kraken Black Spiced Cuba Libre, after a few tries, was my personal standout recipe. Purely for the thick, almost syrupy taste it brings to the drink. The Lime juice, when freshly squeezed, cuts through the nasty aftertaste of the alcohol (that horrible kick you get that can spoil a drink) allowing you to pile in 2 measures without thought, and the Pepsi brought out the Spiced notes perfectly and made sure they were there in the background, but not too overpowering.

In my opinion the Kraken Rum brought something extra to the Pepsi recipes that the others simply did not have: a thick almost syrupy, spice texture that when cut with the fresh lime juice created this sensation of pure bliss; that something a little bit special.

Now don’t mistake my gushing for naivety. I know that the classic Cuban rum recipe will always be the classic Cuba Libre, I wouldn’t have it any other way, but what I am saying is that If you want something a little special and a bit of a taste-treat in the disguise of a Cuba Libre; then Kraken Black Spiced Rum is your poison of choice. Trust me you will not regret it.

Footnotes:

–          Always use freshly squeezed lime juice. Lime cordial is never a replacement at the best of times, and especially not here. It is too sweet and doesn’t help balance out the rum. Don’t expect the taste to be that good if you do use it. Having said that, if you have no choice try to use a little less rum so you don’t overpower the drink.

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Always use fresh lime juice where possible. It is far superior to any lime cordial in every way.

–          These rums were used purely because they were accessible at the time I tried them. So whilst I am raving about the Kraken Rum here, it is very likely you will disagree. Please don’t hate me for ignoring your favourite rum; that is not the intention. It was simply MY favourite of the 3!

Recipes:

Brugal Ron Anejo Cuba Libre (Coke)

2 measures Brugal Ron Anejo Rum

1 measure freshly squeezed lime juice*

Top up Coca Cola

Brugal Ron Anejo Cuba Libre (Pepsi)

2 measures Brugal Ron Anejo Rum

1 measure freshly squeezed lime juice

Top up Pepsi

Bacardi Oakheart Cuba Libre

2 measures Bacardi Oakheart

1 measure freshly squeezed lime juice*

Top up Pepsi

Kraken Black Spiced Cuba Libre

2 measures Kraken Black Spiced Rum

1 measure freshly squeezed lime Juice*

Top up Pepsi

*this is equivalent to around 1 small lime being around 25ml

Now as a slight addition to this post, one I did not intend I might add, will be in relation to the fact that whilst in the process of writing this post; I was again paid.

This payday I invested in a rather well-known brand of Cuban Rum, mainly to test out the theory of ‘Cuban rum for a Cuba Libre is better’ and also because I love it. That’s right ladies and gents; Havana Club 3yo white rum.

Now normally I would keep this sort of information to myself, but seeing as it was mainly to try a proper Cuba Libre Recipe out, I thought it best to add. The recipe I used was a 2:1 ratio (the same as the above recipes) only I added the lime juice to the glass first (following Havana Club guidelines).

And can I just say, from the above recipes, Brugal & Coca Cola was my favourite (not including the Kraken & Pepsi recipe), but this Havana Libre I made up, was on another level… It is very strange, but the flavour of the Havana Club comes through the cola perfectly, so you taste the rums flavour, but without the painful bite of the alcohol (thank the lime juice for that).

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Havana Nights: Cuba is the birthplace of the Cuba Libre and Cuban Rum should always be your first stop…

So I suppose to summarise I just have to leave you with this bit of advice: Cocktail recipes can be fluid. You make them to your own tastes. And sometimes you may want a spiced rum, sometimes you want a white. But if you ever have a Cuba Libre, try it first with the Havana Club 3yo, create a Cuba Libre the way it was intended and then, if you want to, experiment with other rums. You’ll find that this classic recipe is just that: a classic. You may find you prefer a spiced version, or even the taste of black rum. But no matter what you try you cannot beat the Cuban Anejo rum recipe. It’s just one of those things… Like gravity or the short life of a turkey; it’s inevitable.