Imagine lounging on a sun-kissed Cuban beach, a delectably cooling Cuban cocktail in hand, with the backdrop of glistening turquoise waters. This isn’t just daydreaming; it’s a tangible paradise for many who venture to Cuba for a sun-drenched getaway.
Cuban bartenders are lauded for crafting some of the planet’s most cherished drinks. Rewind to the Prohibition era in the U.S.; Americans would escape to Cuba to bask in the sun and enjoy a legal tipple. That tradition of exceptional bartending continues in Cuba to this day.
Each sip in Cuba isn’t just about tasting a drink; it’s about experiencing a story, a culture. So why not embark on this flavorful journey?
A global cocktail superstar, the daiquiri originated in Eastern Cuba. It’s a simple yet sublime mix of white rum, lemon juice, sugar, and ice. Now, it’s evolved with regional twists like the famous Miami Vice – a tantalizing daiquiri and piña colada fusion.
The frozen daiquiri, especially popular in Cuba, was first whipped up by bartenders at Havana’s iconic Floridita bar, a favorite haunt of Ernest Hemingway. In fact, there’s even a bronze statue of Hemingway at his usual spot in the bar.
Just a stone’s throw from Floridita is La Bodeguita del Medio, another legendary bar. Hemingway supposedly helped create their version of the mojito, which highlights muddled mint leaves. Whether fact or fiction, it’s a story they’re sticking to!
The mojito’s a blend of white rum, ice, mint, and sugar, with roots tracing back to an older concoction by African slaves in sugarcane fields. Each bartender adds their personal flair, but the original Cuban mojito is a must-try.
What is Cuba’s signature drink? A Cuba Libre!
Needless to say that the Cuba Libre is a staple in the Cuban cocktail world. Its name translates to “Free Cuba”, symbolizing the island’s freedom after the Spanish-American War.
More than just a regular rum and coke, the authentic Cuban Cuba Libre is crafted with muddled lime juice for a fresh twist. This crucial component not only balances the sweetness of the cola but also adds a zingy freshness that makes the drink stand out.
However you choose to drink it, the Cuba Libre remains a classic, easy-to-make cocktail that embodies the spirit of Cuba.
The base of the drink is a high-quality Cuban rum, which is then topped with cola for a sweet, fizzy twist. However, in Cuba, Coca-Cola comes from Mexico, making it pricier. For a truly Cuban experience, mix local tuKola with some Havana Club rum.
This one holds a pivotal role in the Cuban cocktail scene. Originating from the early 20th century, it was created to honor the then Cuban President, Mario García Menocal. It’s also sometimes referred to as the ‘Cuban Manhattan’, highlighting its classic status amongst cocktail enthusiasts.
It encapsulates the sophistication of the era, with an intriguing blend of different flavors. Its recipe consists of white rum, orange curaçao, dry vermouth, and a hint of grenadine. The cocktail is well-stirred to ensure the perfect blend of its ingredients and is typically served in a chilled coupe glass.
Known as the oldest cocktail in Cuba, the Canchanchara has a rich history dating back to the Ten Years War in the late 19th century. Legend says it originated in the UNESCO-listed colonial city of Trinidad. Its creation is attributed to the Cuban guerrillas, known as mambises, who were fighting for independence from Spain. The cocktail is named after the clay cup, also called a canchanchara, in which it was traditionally served.
The mix is quite simple. Aguardiente (or clear Cuban rum as a substitute), honey, and juice from limón criollo, a type of lime also known as key lime juice. It’s often served with a garnish of lime wedge and fresh sugarcane, although these are optional.
The cocktail may be adjusted to your preferences. For example, the lime-honey ratio can be tweaked to make the drink more sweet or sour. Depending on how friendly you are with the bartender, it may be a tad stronger than normal, too.