The Anejo Highball is not so much a celebrated classic as it is a modified masterpiece. The original recipe comes from “insert creators name here” and has become a house cocktail in their bar. The thing is, this cocktail is better shared than kept for that bar (sorry “name”)… The recipe is a combination of a wonderfully aged ‘Anejo’ Rum, fresh lime juice and ginger beer (with a few dashes of angostura bitters)… And it is as flavoursome as it is simple to make.
For purely experimental reasons I tried this drink, firstly with freshly squeezed lime juice (DIY – it’s really not that hard to do yourself) and secondly with Roses Lime Cordial… Needless to say, Lime cordial is 100% a bad choice. The job of the lime in this drink is to cut through the rum and help layer out the flavours. By using lime cordial you take away the limes capability and end up with an overly sweet unbalanced mixture.
The layers this drink supplies are held together by the lime (without question) but the potency comes purely from the Anejo rum. I used a brand called ‘Brugal’, from the Dominican Republic and of high quality, this rum was a recent addition to my collection and has been a relatively new addition to my local Sainsbury’s (supermarket not convenience) spirit selection (among many others that will feature in this and future blogs).
The thing to remember about cocktails is that they delicately balanced. Too much of any one of the ingredients and the drink be transforms into something nobody wants to consume.
With this in mind, a few things to remember about the Anejo highball are as follows:
– Lime Juice – Use freshly squeezed (see above for details)
– Ginger beer – use because it is lighter and smoother than ginger ale and works better with the rum.
– Angostura Bitters: the drink calls for 2 dashes but if like me you like a little more bitter in your drink up the does to around 3 / 4 dashes.
– Triple Sec – using Cointreau is a possibility if you don’t have triple sec available, but the where possible use a standard triple sec or ‘dry’ curacao (No coloured versions please – leave your blue curacao in the cupboard for Woo Woo’s and grease lightning’s).
– Anejo Rum – Always, without fail, use Anejo Rum – It’s in the name after all!
Overall this drink caters for those of you who prefer a cocktail on the more bitter edge of the taste experience (also you kind of need to like ginger beer – replacing it with other sodas generally does not work).
“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)
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?).
So traditionally it was made using Coca Cola, a Premium quality CubanAnejoRum 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…
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.
– 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.
– 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!
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).
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.