Viva La Cuba Libre!

I know next to nothing about Spain. But this past summer I did spend five days on the Costa Blanca eating Spanish food, soaking in the Spanish sun and eyeballing Spanish women. And continuing my affair with Spanish speaking rums. It started innocently enough. A Havana Club here. A Havana Club there. A little Brugal for spice. Next thing you know mi colección del ron está toda en español. Zacapa. Flor De Cana. Cacique. The Spanish speakers were everywhere. Por todas partes. Equilibrium has been restored but it was touch and go for a little bit, my Appleton’s and Mount Gay’s and El Dorado’s surely feeling neglected.

Anyway, on one evening my friends and I found ourselves sitting on a restaurant’s patio in Algorfa, a small town on the southeastern coast of Spain. Our server came to take our order. For the first time in dog years I ordered a rum and coke. Or as I know prefer to call it, a Cuba Libre (sidebar: I’ve avoided this drink for years because I associated it with girls gone wild and drunken frat boys looking for a “sophisticated” alternative to beer. In case you weren’t sure, I’m neither female nor am I a frat boy. And I’m never drunk).

What a revelation. One sip of my Cuba Libre (made with Brugal, which I guess means it’s not strictly speaking a Cuba Libre) and I began to immediately reconsider my long held opposition. Maybe it was the Spanish heat. Maybe it was the fact I was on vacation. Maybe it was an absence makes the heart grow fonder kind of deal. Regardless, I fell hard. I continued drinking Cuba Libres for the rest of my time in Spain and I’ve been drinking them regularly since. And I’m never disappointed.

What’s the secret? What makes the Cuba Libre so…so…so…good? Like anything we eat or drink it’s all about the ingredients. Now, making a Cuba Libre seems simple enough; one part rum, two parts cola, glass filled with ice and a lime to garnish. Well, that’s fine if you like things middle of the road. When it comes to my drinks, middle of the road doesn’t work para mi. So without further ado, let me present my tips for making a quality Cuba Libre:

  1. Rum: Try using a medium bodied or dark rum. Yes, I know white rum is the traditional call. But tradition is overrated. Any good medium bodied/dark rum will do but Flor De Cana 7 year old Grand Reserve is my pick. Just make sure that the rum isn’t too sweet.
  2. Citrus: I’m not talking about garnish here; I’m talking about a nice lemon mix. The fresher the better.
  3. Ice: For me, big and chunky works best. Large chunks or cubes of ice dissolve slowly, chilling the drink without diluting it too much.

Fill a glass, preferably a highball, with ice. Then add 1 part rum and 1 part lemon mix and top it off with cola. I don’t care all that much for the garnish but a lime wedge is cool. Now you’re good to go. Viva la Cuba Libre (no politics). Enjoy.


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