Experience freedom with every sip of a Cuba Libre—a classic drink steeped in rum, coke, lime juice… and history.
When you go to the bar and order a Cuba Libre, you’re ordering much more than just a delicious rum & cola cocktail. Its origins date back to the early 1900s in Havana, Cuba, following the country’s successful fight for independence from the Spanish. An American captain in the army, who lived there after Cuba’s victory, added Cola to his Cuba Libre. So, in light of that history lesson, when you sip a Cuba Libre, you are in fact tasting freedom, as the name suggests.
The drink has since taken up residence in America where Coke is plentiful. The irony is that the same can’t be said for Cuba where Coca-Cola is no longer available due to a U.S. embargo implemented in the 1950s. Cubans can, however, make other rum-based cocktails like a Mojito, a Miami Vice (Miami is close to Cuba, right?), and a New Orleans Hurricane. But few drinks are as simple and refreshing as the original Cuba Libre.
Isn’t a Cuba Libre Just a Rum & Coke?
To the untrained tongue, yes. But there are differences. For starters, a rum & coke is exactly that: rum and coke. The ratios may change but if the drink involves the pair and nothing else, then what you’ve got is a simple rum & coke. The special ingredient in a Cuba Libre is the fresh lime juice. The origin of a drink is also vital here. When you sip on something with a history as remarkable as the Cuba Libre, you feel like you’re continuing a tradition forged long ago. Lastly, while the lime-wedge garnish is optional for the rum & coke, it is essential when making a Cuba Libre. It’s these kinds of standards that make a drink what it is.
- 2 oz. light rum
- cola to top off
- 1/2 a lime’s worth of freshly squeezed lime juice
- lime wedge garnish
- Cut your lime into wedges. Extract the juice from half a lime and pour into a highball glass. Optional: Drop the spent shell into the glass for extra lime flavor.
- Add the ice and light rum.
- Fill the rest of the glass with cola.
- Stir lightly to combine all ingredients, and chill the cocktail.
Tips & Tricks to Making a Perfect Cuba Libre
- Stick with freshly squeezed lime juice. The store-bought stuff (otherwise called bar mix or sour mix) is full of sugar and unhealthy ingredients that the drink just doesn’t need.
- Muddle the lime shell. Drop it into the glass and use a muddler to release the oils from the lime’s peel. You should notice a slight tartness to the drink.
- It’s up to you whether you want to leave the muddled rind at the bottom of your drink. Like lime? Then leave it there. If not, once you’re done muddling, take it out and never mention it again.
- Chill your ingredients—the cola, rum, and lime juice—beforehand. Remember, this drink was founded in Cuba, a tropical country where a cocktail must not only enliven your spirits but also, cool you down.
Cuba Libre Variations
Havana Libre: Use dark rum instead of light rum.
Captain Cuba: You probably guessed from the name that this involves substituting Bacardi with Captain Morgan’s Rum.
Cuba Pintada: Replace the cola with grapefruit juice.
Cuban Missile Crisis: Add Tabasco sauce. (Nothing like a “heated” political note to end on!)
Cuba Libre Mocktail: Just swap out the rum with a non-alcoholic replacement.