Rum & Coke or Cuba Libre
Rum has an esteemed place in the world of cocktails. Drinks like the Daquiri, Mai Tai, and Mojito remain as ubiquitous as ever in cocktail bars, outdoor patios, clubs, and dives around the world. The popularity of these drinks is dwarfed, however, by the sheer volume of something as easy to replicate as the rum and coke.
From college apartments to the most highfalutin nightlife destinations in the world, the rum and coke is replicated over and over in practically every corner of the planet. Like it or not, it remains one of the most basic litmus tests for a rum, even for those of us who look for white rums with body, texture, flavor and aroma.
A cocktail that loosely alines itself with the world’s earliest definition from 1806 of spirit, sweet, and bitter, the rum and coke stays true to the roots of the most basic elements of drinks making, while being nearly impossible to mess up.
The name Coca Cola itself provides the link to the role of common Amargo Aromaticos or Aromatic Bitters, one of the basics of cocktails 101. Like the world’s most popular bitters, Angostura, Coca Cola was invented as an elixir during the 19th century.
¡Por Cuba Libre! or “For a Free Cuba” is the quote that gives this drink its creation myth. The phrase is said to have been a toast of US GI’s in the newly aligned Cuba and also a battle cry of Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders. Like many cocktail histories, this one is cloudy and susceptible to myths proffered up by brands that leveraged it to sell their hooch. At any rate, it’s interesting that Coke was there and more than happy to be the majority ingredient in this world famous drink.
Coca Cola rose to fame around 1900 and became the world’s best selling beverage of it’s kind by 1920. As history would tell it, at this same time, Coca Cola was finding its way into the markets of newly created governments in places like Cuba where America’s sway had been felt. Our tiny little neighbor south of Florida would later prove that it’s early contributions to the history of rum mixology were of great importance.
This proliferation of Coke in countries like Cuba happened to coincide with the fact that rum found it’s long lost place as one of America’s great heritage spirits during WWII back in 1942. American distillers were mandated to switch production of industrial alcohol to fuel for the bombers in the theatre of war. As a result, Caribbean rum became hugely popular as an available substitute. Also the return of Amercian troops to the Caribbean stemming from a partnership between the US and UK solidified rum’s fame. Coke soon used its adverstising clout to align the brand with patriotism and one of the great American consumer love affairs began.
The drink was first popularized in the southeastern states where Coke is still headquartered today in Atlanta, GA and moved northwest as an easy mixer to mask the more undesirable spirits.
Fast forward and today rum and coke remains as omnipresent as ever, hanging around as the vehicle for rums from the light styles made popular after the war as the American pallet shifted to more dry and “smooth” spirits culminating in vodka taking over as the top selling spirit by the 1970′s. Today, flavorful rums with character like Denizen are making a comeback and create a whole new experience by freeing the flavor of a timeless classic. The Cuba Libre.
Denizen Cuba Libre
Pour 2 ounces of Denizen Aged White Rum into a highball glass
Fill the glass with ice cubes
Fill with Coke to about 1 inch below the glass rim
Sqeeze in one wedge of lime and rub the oils from the back side around the rim
Garnish with a second wedge of lime on the rim of the glass
*While the use of lime in cocktail books and print from the time varies from simple garnish to full squeeze, we like the oils and juice of a wedge of lime in our Rum & Coke and also recommend trying this one with the naturally sweetened version of Coke produced south of the border if you can get your hands on it.