About this recipe
At the time Cuba was under American military rule, in the aftermath of the Spanish-American War that had helped free Cuba from Spanish occupation. The battle cry of Cubans seeking independence was “Cuba libre!” (“Free Cuba”). It seemed natural enough to mix Cuban rum with cola, even though cola represented the ruling powers at the time. The lime juice, meanwhile, may well be a later addition. Newspapers from the 1930s describe the drink as simply rum and cola, and it could have been the roving mixologist Charles H. Baker who transformed the Cuba Libre by adding lime around 1939.
During World War II, as American distilleries were turned over to war manufacturing, whiskey was in short supply and rum became the spirit of choice. Hence the Cuba Libre's popularity peaked. A song named “Rum and Coca-Cola” would be the number one hit single of 1945.
Fresh lime juice is absolutely critical to the Cuba Libre. It cuts the sweetness of the cola and brings out the flavours of the base rum, transforming the drink. Charles H. Baker recommends muddling the lime shell in the base of the glass, adding an additional hit of citrus oil.
Captain Morgan makes a great Cuba Libre, with a rich, mellow flavour that blends with, but is never dominated by, the cola and a sweetness that contrasts perfectly with lime.