The Cuba Libre is more complex and beguiling than its simple formula suggests. It calls for rum and Coke with lime, but within those three ingredients lies a synergy that has pleased palates for more than a century. Today, it’s one of the most popular Cuban cocktails in existence—right near the classic Daiquiri, which was created around the same time.
As the story goes, the Cuba Libre’s origins can be traced to 1900 and to a U.S. Army captain who was stationed in Havana during the Spanish-American War. He added Coca-Cola and a little lime juice to his Bacardí rum and toasted his Cuban comrades by exclaiming, “Por Cuba Libre!” (“To a free Cuba!”). The drink, and the name, stuck.
Naturally, Bacardí has embraced the drink, cozying up to its creation. And according to company lore, Bacardí rum was readily available during Cuban independence to quench thirsts and celebrate the island nation’s freedom from Spanish rule. But technically, the drink does not call for a specific rum, which means you can choose whichever rum you prefer.
A light, Spanish-style rum like Bacardí certainly works, and making your drink with this rum will approximate the typical version served in bars across the land. But you can also try a richer, fuller-flavored rum from Jamaica, Central or South America or elsewhere.
Rum and Coke is a classic combination that blends the tropical, grassy notes of the rum with the effervescent, spicy flavor of the cola. A squeeze of lime adds a zingy jolt of citrus that complements both ingredients while taming some of the sweetness. It also doesn’t hurt that the Cuba Libre contains caffeine and sugar, making it a preferred party drink, whether you’re celebrating your independence at a dive bar or a dance club.
1 ounce rum
3 ounces Coca-Cola
Garnish: lime wedge
Fill a highball glass with ice, then add rum and Coca-Cola.
Garnish with a lime wedge. Squeeze the lime into your drink, if desired.