Cuban Classics: Cuba Libré

By Jonathan Laurel November 20, 2019 Food

Probably the most ubiquitous of “Cuban” cocktails is the Cuba Libré, common to all those who don’t know anything about cocktails beyond “I’d like a rum and coke.”  But this dime-a-dozen drink—like many popular classics—has a surprising origin.

The drink came into being around the time of the Spanish-American War (1898) as the child of a debatably-happy marriage between the native Cuban spirit and a highly addictive export from America: Coca-Cola.  In all likelihood, the Cuba Libré came into being for the same reason it is so common now: people use the Coke to mask the flavor of the rum, as soldiers might have done 120 years ago.  Charles Baker, Jr., so poignantly describes this drink as having been “started by accident and without imagination, and [it] has been carried along by the ease of its supply.” 

The drink is inherently too sweet—an observation anyone today would easily make—and Charles Baker, Jr., encouraged the addition of lime juice, hence the standard garnish whenever a rum and coke is ordered.

Our Cuba Libré is, of course, made with a house cola, and so is missing its otherwise iconic dark brown coloring (the flavors alone will convince you that the trade is worthy).  Having made a previous appearance in Volume 1, the Cuba Libré joins the Mojito and the Daiquiri de Luxe on Volume 5b’s Cuban Classics Cocktail Flight.