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Cover: Shaken and stirred

Recipes with Coca Cola

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.

Needed:

  • 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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04May 12

Fernet with Coke

Fernet with ColaToday, I want to tell you about a friend of mine and how he got me hooked on one of the most unlikely drinks in history. Rodrigo Bueno, “el Potro” (the stallion), as his friends called him, was a Jet Ski instructor I met in Benidorm, in the south of Spain. I don´t know if you have ever met an Argentine before, but I think he epitomized the concept: dark skin, amazing looks, and an undying love for a drink which I had never heard of before: Fernet Branca. For almost a fortnight, we got together and supped on this very strange drink. And every time, we ended up talking about childhood memories, friends, and all the topics which make you feel closer to home when you are abroad.

Fernet Branca (or just Fernet to Rodrigo and his friends) is an Italian liqueur, with a top-secret recipe that hasn’t changed since its creation in 1845. Fratelli Branca, one of the oldest companies to manufacture Fernet, say it includes 27 different herbs and spices taken from four continents: including South African aloe, gentian root, chamomile, iris, rhubarb, gum myrrh, red cinchona bark, galangal, cinnamon, zedoary, and yellow Iranian saffron.

The dark syrupy liqueur has a bitter, almost medicinal herbal flavor. While some would say it’s an acquired taste, in Argentina, it’s the national cocktail; more than 10 million bottles of it are consumed every year.

So what is so special about a drink which just consists of Fernet Branca and cola? Rodrigo explained it to me one day, with just a gesture. We were sitting on a terrace (I forget whose!) and I asked him that very question. He opened his arms, looked around, and said: “This, my friend, this”. I looked up and saw a bunch of people talking, laughing their heads off and having a good time. And that is what I cherish about my memories of Fernet and my Argentine friends.

Ingredients:

  • 6 cl Fernet Branca
  • 27 cl Coke
  • Ice

How to make it like a real Argentine:
1. Start by pouring the Fernet over the ice in a tall frosted glass.
2. Slowly add the Coke.
3. When it begins to froth (which Fernet does, for some reason), sip.
4. Add more Coke and sip, until the right flavor combination has been reached.

Time: 1 minute
Makes: 1 cocktail

Note: Another typically Italian liqueur is limoncello. I suggest having a go at this Kirsch and limoncello Tanqueray presse.

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