Remember that scene in the 1988 movie, Cocktail, where Tom Cruise’s character gets absolutely slaughtered on his first night at his bartending gig and everyone’s screaming drink orders at him, including the impatient waitresses, one of whom yells out, “A Cuba Libre!” and Tom, clueless as to how to make it, frantically looks up the recipe in his bartender’s bible? (Was that the longest sentence ever?) Then, seeing what was in the cocktail, slammed the little book down and yelled, “You [insert unflattering expletive here]! Why didn’t you tell me it was a rum and Coke?”
Oh, Tom, because it’s so much more than that, darling. What we now prosaically call a rum and Coke actually began its life as the Cuba Libre in 1900 or so in Havana (sources say). “Free Cuba” being the battle cry during the Spanish-American War. Although any cola may be used, this classic Caribbean cocktail is indelibly associated with Coca-Cola®.
However, the American version of Coca-Cola® is made with high fructose corn syrup, so that’s a deal-breaker for me. But, you can find the Mexican Coca-Cola®, made with sugar, at specialty food stores (I can get mine at Earth Fare). Or try an artisanal cola, like Virgil’s. For those who prefer a Skinny Cuba Libre, Zevia makes a zero calorie cola with no artificial sweeteners, regular and decaf, that I think is pretty darn tasty for a diet soda.
I like a few dashes of bitters in my Cuba Libre because I think it’s magic with the taste of the cola, but you can omit it if you prefer.
Fill a highball glass with ice. Pour in 2 ounces light rum, 1 tablespoon of freshly-squeezed lime juice and 2 dashes of bitters. Fill the glass with cola and stir. Garnish with a lime slice.