Cuba Libre (also Rum & Coke) is one of the most served cocktails in the world. Just few know that the drink is dating back to the time of the Spanish-American War (April 21 – August 13, 1898), an armed conflict between Spain and the United States. For Cuba, the war marked the end of decades of wars against Spain and it was the birth of an independent nation “Cuba Libre” (“Free Cuba“). One version of the story goes that Cuban soldiers used to sip a drink mixed of molasses, water and rum that was named “Free Cuba” after the battle-cry of the Cuban Liberation Army.
Another version tells a story of a group of U.S. soldiers that went out for some drinks in a bar in Old Havana, Cuba. Right after the war American businesses started to enter the Cuban market. The soft drink Coca-Cola was invented in 1886 by an American pharmacist in Atlanta, GA. In 1902 Coca-Cola began sending its cola syrup to Cuba, and it became a huge success. It is said that U.S. soldiers mixed rum with cola and toasted to a free Cuba “Por Cuba Libre!” allegedly naming the famous cocktail.
Some though claim that the cocktail was named after the U.S. Army camp in Jacksonville, Florida which was nicknamed “Camp Cuba Libre” in 1898 – though there is not much of a proof for this theory.
In 1928 Basil Woon wrote a book “When It’s Cocktail Time in Cuba…” about the early days of a “free Cuba” marked by American investors and tourists that visited the island to drink, gamble, and party under the tropical sun. The book also proves the availability of Cuba Libre cocktails at the American Club in Havana.
Bacardi rum is likely one of the most used rum for Cuba Libre cocktails as it shares a connection with the history of the island. The original Bacardi distillery opened in Santiago de Cuba in 1862. In 1934 a first plant was set up in Puerto Rico to avoid the drastic import duties in the USA. After the Cuban Revolution in 1959, the Bacardí family was expropriated in Cuba. Until today, Puerto Rico remains one of the main production locations of Bacardi rum.