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Cuba Libre long drink in two glasses on table

Cuba Libre – The Best Recipe

The Cuba Libre has been one of the most popular alcoholic drinks in the world since its invention in Cuba in early 20th century. Despite its simplicity, the kind of rum and cola that go into making this drink influence its flavors a lot. Below we suggest some rums other than Bacardi or its variants or Captain Morgan rum that make the Cuba Libre come alive.

Story behind Cuba Libre

There are various stories in circulation about the origins of this cocktail. But one of them is cited more often than others. The most heard story of the Cuba Libre is that of Bacardi.

Bacardi said that origins of the Cuba Libre go back to the Cuban War of Independence in 1898, when Colonel Theodore Roosevelt and his regiment, known as the Rough Riders, arrived in Cuba with many other Americans. The American troops brought the Coca-Cola™ to Cuba, which soon became as popular with the Cubans as it was with the Americans. In August 1900, during a victory celebration in the American Bar in Havana, Captain Russell of the US telecommunications team ordered his Cuban Bacardi Rum with Coca-Cola and a fresh slice of lime. This new combination made the soldiers around him very curious. Soon everyone was drinking the new drink in the bar. Toasts were made for a free Cuba – “Por Cuba Libre!“. The words Cuba Libre, meaning free Cuba, gave this long drink its name.

woman drinking cuba libre cocktail on a table

There is however one issue with this theory. The Rough Riders Regiment had landed in Cuba in 1898, but after some combat and illnesses, they had already left for the United States about 4 months later. This means that the regiment should have enjoyed their Cuba Libres on September 16, 1898 at the latest, since the Rough Riders were officially dissolved on that day. 

Here lies the problem with this tale. Coca Cola was first exported to Cuba in 1900, two years after the Rough Riders were dissolved. So how could Captain Russell have ordered his drink without the Cola?

Despite the various versions of this tale, there is one thing we can safely assume. That is, Cuba Libre was indeed first concocted in Cuba.

Cuba Libre Recipe is Simple!

The list of ingredients for this long drink is quite manageable. Cuba Libre requires only 4 ingredients and these not hard to look for. Extraordinary bar-tending skills are also not necessary. Perhaps that’s why this long drink is a classic!

Cuba Libre Cocktail

Prep Time2 mins
Total Time2 mins
Cuisine: alcoholic cocktail
Servings: 1 person

Ingredients

  • 40 to 50 ml Rum
  • Coca Cola
  • Freshly squeezed lime juice
  • Lime wedges for garnish

Instructions

  • Fill a tall glass with ice cubes
  • Top up the glass with cola
  • Squeeze a lime wedge partially so that juice from its pulp comes out. Bitters elements remain in its peel.
  • Add 4 or 5 cl rum and stir with a spoon
  • Add lime wedges into the glass and serve

8 Best Rums for Cuba Libre

It is often said that the Cuba Libre has to be mixed with white rum. So the majority tend to use Bacardi Carta Blanca 37.5% and Havana Club 3 Years Old rums. In fact, when you are not sure about which rum to chose, these two remain the go-to rums for all types of cocktails and long drinks.

But you won’t be able to mix a delicious and authentic drink with them. And certainly do not use Bacardi 151 as overproof rums are not really meant for Cuba Libre.

We would like to recommend short-aged rums that have been stored in barrels for at least 3 years. In contrast to white rums, these offer more character, which is particularly beneficial with cola.

We find that these rums are more full-bodied and the aromas are much softer and embedded in the spirit. This also makes the Cuba Libre more pleasant in taste and it gains in aromatic quality. Of course, you can also use the other maturity variants for the below proposed rum brands.

Varadero 3 Year Old Rum 40%

The 3 year-old Varadero rum is an absolute Cuban classic. It is made from molasses and matured in oak barrels. This rum has a beautiful fruity aroma, some oak notes, a hint of fine vanilla and a light sweetness. A solid choice for the Cuba Libre!

Varadero Añejo 7 Años 40%

Aged for seven years, this brown rum from Varadero comes with a dominant character and an oily texture. It mixes excellently with cola and brings a good portion of aroma and taste to the Cuba Libre long drink.

Legendario Carta Blanca Superior 40% Rum

Another great choice as rum for Cuba Libre is the Legendario Carta Blanca Superior. This Cuban rum matures in oak barrels for 3 years and combines the advantages of white and brown rum. Its soft texture with freshness from exotic fruits complements cola. The fine citrus aromas also intensify the aromas of the limes in the cocktail.

Legendario Ron Añejo 40%

There is also a more mature option with Legendario rum, the Legendario Ron Añejo 40%. It is a tad spicier and a tad sweeter than it white counterpart. If spicy and sweet is how you like your Cuba Libre, then this is a suitable rum for you.

Santiago de Cuba Carta Blanca 38% Rum

This is not a very classic white rum. Aged in oak barrels, it shows a hint of golden reflections, a soft texture, and attractive vanilla notes. Santiago De Cuba Carta Blanca is great Cuban rum that is overshadowed by many major brands. In our opinion it is really an insider tip when it comes to mixing with rum. Whether mixing with Coca-Cola or a bit more spicy colas, this rum is a great mixing partner.

Ron Vacilon Añejo 3 Años 40%

This rum, unlike Santiago de Cuba, comes with warmer notes. Coffee and hazelnut complete the classic aroma of molasses and fruits in it. This combination goes very well with the sour taste of caffeinated soft drinks.

Havana Club 7 years

Havana Club 7 years rum blends wonderfully into the sweet and sour aroma of the cola of your choice. This rum has a soft and round taste profile that is characterized by vanilla, cedar, tobacco and cocoa. Tropical fruits add a fruity note and oak adds the necessary warmth to the taste.

Barbancourt Réserve du domaine 15 Years

For a really different rum experience, try the Barbancourt 15 year rum from Haiti. This rum is not made from molasses but directly from the sugar cane juice. This makes it particularly fruity unlike industrial rums from DonQ or Bacardi. Of course it is a high end rum, best meant for sipping. But it also makes one hell of a Cuba Libre.

Best Cola for Cuba Libre

When the Cubra Libre was invented in early 20th century, soft drinks containing caffeine were far more flavorful and less sweet. This should be kept in mind if you aspire to make the long drink as historically authentic as possible.

The cola in Cuba Libre doesn’t always have to be Coca Cola or Pepsi. Afri-Cola, Fritz-kola, Club Mate Cola or also Zisch Guarana-Cola from Voelkel offer spicier alternatives with a certain amount of herbs .

If you like it very authentic, you can also use drinks from South America. For example, the Inca-Kola from Peru or the Tukola from the Caribbean are a great choice.

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