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Cuba Libre
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Difficulty: Easy

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Makes: 1 drink

The Cuba Libre is a basic white rum drink mixed with Coca-Cola. Those who think that the Cuba Libre is an uninspired drink should take note of its history. Bottled Coca-Cola was barely a decade old during the Spanish-American War when the Rough Riders added Cuban rum to it and loudly toasted “Cuba libre!”—Free Cuba! Some will also recall that Coke’s inventor, John Pemberton, used cocaine in the original formula, and one can only imagine what the first Cuba Libre was like. Coke was also only a nickel a bottle, and rum was one of the least expensive of alcohols, so it is no surprise how quickly and extensively the drink caught on. As an aside, H. L. Mencken wrote in his book The American Language of a variation: “The troglodytes of western South Carolina coined ‘jump stiddy’ for a mixture of Coca-Cola and denatured alcohol (usually drawn from automobile radiators); connoisseurs reputedly preferred the taste of what had been aged in Model-T Fords.” Stick with the rum.

Cuban rum should be served in a Cuba Libre, but unless you know someone traveling back from Havana, the chances of finding it are about as remote as winning the lottery. Note that the Cuba Libre goes down easy—too easy. “One too many” does not seem to apply here as much as “four too many.” Drinker discretion is advised.

Custom has it that a Cuba Libre may be shaken, but only after it has been drunk—move your feet to the beat of Perez Prado mambo.


  1. 1Pour the rum over ice into a chilled highball glass, and add Coke to fill. Squeeze in a lime wedge.


Mexicola: Substitute tequila for the rum.

  • Cuba Libre

This recipe, while from a trusted source, may not have been tested by the CHOW food team.
Copyright Quirk Books

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