Great Cocktails: Cuba Libre – Beyond The Rum & Coke

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Cuba Libre
Cuba Libre

Bacardi and Coke, or rum and Coke, is one of the most common cocktails served, alongside Jack and Coke, and vodka and soda. A brilliantly simple drink, the rum and coke is actually a simplification of a classic cocktail called the Cuba Libre which dates back to the Spanish American War. During the war Americans packed their ships with Coca-Cola because the traditionally stimulating qualities of the original formula helped in the fight.

In Cuba, rum is the dominant beverage and American soldiers mixed this rum with their Coke and lime to make a deliciously addictive drink. The cocktail formally got its name when in 1898 General Russell used the drink for his toast to celebrate the liberation of Cuba from the Spanish. The toast was “Cuba Libre!” and the name stuck.

During the Cuban missile crisis the drink fell out of favor – no one was really interested in celebrating anything Cuban. The drink became known as Bacardi and Coke, or simply rum and Coke. During this transition the drink was often simplified with the essential lime dropped from the equation, and the Bacardi Gold rum was dropped in favor of the lighter Bacardi Superior.

A good Cuba Libre is more than just throwing rum and Coke in a glass. By assembling the ingredients in a specific order and using an aged rum like Bacardi Gold, you can create something that transcends the simple rum and Coke.

Ice tends to pick up the flavor and aroma of the first thing it comes in contact with, so a good Cuba Libre starts with seasoning, or tattooing, the ice with the lime as your first step. The lime is followed by the rum and then topped off with Coke and a gentle stir. The difference between the ingredients in a Cuba Libre and a rum and Coke aren’t dramatic, but when properly prepared, the Cuba Libre picks up a wonderful fresh citrus quality that really balances out the drink.

Cuba Libre
2oz Bacardi Gold Rum
4oz Coca Cola
1/2 oz of Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice

In a tall glass with ice, add the lime juice to the ice. Add the rum and then top it with the Coke. Stir gently and garnish with a lime wedge.

Watch our behind the scenes of Bacardi Rum. 

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+Geoff Kleinman, is the founder, and managing editor of DrinkSpirits.com. He is a nationally recognized spirits columnist and staff reviewer for Whisky Advocate Magazine. Geoff's work has appeared in dozens of major magazines including Playboy Magazine, Black Book, and Mixology Magazine. He is a current sitting judge for the Ultimate Spirits Challenge, the founder of the Society of Modern Journalists, holds BAR certification from the Beverage Alcohol Resource Group, is a Certified Cognac Educator, and a Kentucky Colonel