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Cover: Shaken and stirred

01Jun 12

Cuba Libre

Cuba LibreCuba is a beautiful island; I visited this country in 1999 when they were celebrating the 50th anniversary of their revolution.

While listening to their leader and then president Fidel Castro on his 9 hour marathon on public television, I realised something: here I was in La Habana, drinking a Cuba Libre (one of the country’s most emblematic beverages), which mixes rum with Coca Cola, a soft drink seen as one of the icons of the United States. This struck me as odd as the USA and Cuba are not the best of friends. Why would one of Cuba’s national drinks use a component from the USA? I decided to investigate further on the history of this drink.

The story of how rum and Coca Cola were mixed dates back to the early 20th century. Sugarcane, which is the main ingredient in the distilling process of rum, was introduced to Cuba by Christopher Columbus on his second trip to the New World, in 1502. Coca Cola was created somewhere around 1880 in the city of Atlanta by a chemist called John Pemberton. It would arrive in Cuba during the prominent period of their most famous poet, José Martí.

Influenced by this great poet and other intellectuals, both Cuba and the United States were fighting for independence. The combination of Coca Cola and rum tried to emphasize the libertarian spirit of both nations, embracing their common goal. The USA and Cuba were united in their desire for independence. From this desire came the name Cuba Libre, “a free Cuba.”

Unlike other rum-based cocktails like this strawberry tang, Cuba Libre tastes strongly of alcohol. The aroma in the glass, once served, is rich and extremely refreshing. It’s a drink that will leave an aftertaste on your palate that you will notice for hours after drinking it, especially if you prepare it with an aged rum (like a 12 year Havana Club).

Years after my trip to Cuba, I still think about the experience of a Cuba Libre on the island, and how the icons from two antagonistic worlds came to mix.


  • 1/2 lime
  • 12cl dark rum
  • 24cl Coca Cola

How to make it:
1. Squeeze the juice of half a lime into a Collins glass.
2. Drop the lime into the glass.
3. Add ice cubes.
4. Pour the rum into the glass.
5. Slowly pour the Coca Cola until the glass is full.
6. Stir well.

Time: 3 minutes
Makes: 1 cocktail

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