The Cuba Libre cocktail is one of the oldest mixed drinks that are popular to this day and still largely consumed around the world. The name means “Free Cuba” in Spanish and its basic ingredients are white rum, cola and lime. However, in some parts of the world like the United States, Canada, Ireland, Australia, the UK and New Zealand the lime isn’t used, so they call it simply Rum and Coke.
The cocktail was almost certainly first prepared in Cuba, but when and by whom is rather a mystery. Some say that it was invented when an American Colonel asked for rum and cola with a lemon wedge during the Spanish-American war, and that he liked it so much it became a standalone drink. However, this was happening in 1898, and everyone is certain that Coca-Cola wasn’t available in Cuba until 1900. The name of the Cuba Libre cocktail must have been borrowed from the Spanish-American War though, because this was the Cubans’ battle cry during their fight for independence.
Slowly but steadily, the preference for Cuba Libre cocktail expanded, from Latin America to the North and West, and it soon was a favorite of many Americans. To make matters worse, or better, rum was one of the few quality spirits bootleggers could get their hands on during the Prohibition, so the cocktail became a real favorite in the U.S. Yet this simple and effective cocktail was still on the rise, as right after the war, the popular troupe The Andrews Sisters recorded a song called “Rum and Coca-Cola” that became a hit and further popularized the drink.
The ingredients needed to prepare the Cuba Libre cocktail were also rather cheap at that time, so post-war Americans were looking for something affordable to quench their thirst. Generally, the International Bartenders Association says the recipe is made with 100 milliliters of Cola and 50 milliliters of white rum, which are poured into a highball glass that has been filled with ice. A lemon wedge is usually used as garnish, but some bartenders may add pineapple or cherries. There are also variations of the Cuba Libre, excepting the fact that some people choose to modify the usual quantities of rum and cola until they get a combination they like. Thus, we have, for example, the Cuban Missile Crisis, which uses 151-proof rum that has as much as 75.5% alcohol.