It’s the time-honored combination of rum and coke with a lime, otherwise known by its official name, the Cuba Libre. But its origins are a little hazier, and more complex, than its streamlined recipe suggests.
Legend has it that the Cuba Libre has both American and Cuban roots. When American soldiers, led by none other than Theodore Roosevelt, arrived on the island of Cuba in 1898 to fight in the Spanish-American War, they brought with them cases of Coca-Cola.
According to Bacardi archivist Juan Bergaz Pessino, the cocktail was first ordered by an American, one Captain Russell, at a bar when soldiers were celebrating the end of the war. The story goes that he asked for rum with coke and a lime, and chants of “por Cuba Libre!” (“for a free Cuba,” celebrating its independence from Spain) began among the soldiers and their Cuban counterparts—and so the name of the cocktail was christened.
Several decades later, in 1965, a Cuban native by the name of Fausto Rodriguez filed an affidavit with the state of New York claiming that, as a 14-year-old boy who was employed as a messenger for the U.S. Army Signal Corps, he had witnessed Captain Russell order the drink with BACARDÍ® rum, Coca-Cola and lime, thus cementing the brand’s association with the cocktail.
Even today, when someone orders a Cuba Libre, it should be made with BACARDÍ rum, preferably BACARDÍ Gold—a tradition that came about in the 1970s, when the cocktail experienced another wave of popularity.
The combination of rum and coke has had other historical and pop culture moments—it was popular during World War II and was the title of a hit song by the Andrews Sisters in 1945—but after more than a century, the recipe for a Cuba Libre has stayed the same: over ice in a highball glass, with a jigger of BACARDÍ rum and a squeeze of fresh lime juice, then topped with good ol’ Coca-Cola. Find the classic recipe here.