The history of the long drink
The drink originated sometime around the beginning of the 19th century, at the end of the Spanish-American War. It was not new in Cuba to mix rum with lime juice and a sweet filler to make the rum drinkable at all. At that time, people mainly used a molasses made from sugar cane syrup and water sweetened with honey.
When the Americans landed in Cuba, they had Coca-Cola in their luggage, which at the time was considered a health-promoting and stimulating drink. It was probably only a few days before the first soldiers replaced the cardboard-sweet molasses with Coca-Cola and created today’s Cuba Libre.
Legend has it that future U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt and his Rough Riders were instrumental in its creation. At the time of the war, Roosevelt was a colonel and stationed in Cuba. A classy story for an evening at the bar. However, the truth of the claim can no longer be verified.
The right rum for the Cuba Libre
As the name suggests, a Cuban rum is used for a classic Cuba Libre. The best-known brand for this is probably Havana Club. You shouldn’t use really high-quality rum for your Cuba Libre, however, as its more complex flavors will be masked by the dominant cola.
However, a slightly aged, but not too expensive rum is worthwhile, as it expands the flavor profile of the drink. But then you should also go for a high-quality cola.
The right cola for the long drink
As a filler, cola is the main ingredient of this long drink. Today’s Coca-Cola no longer has much in common with the original recipe from the 19th century. Not only was cocaine involved then, it tasted different.
For this reason, I prefer to use somewhat higher-quality colas from smaller manufacturers for the Cuba Libre. You can clearly taste the difference to normal Coke. Especially if you’re using higher quality rum, go for a filler that’s less sweet and delivers a more complex flavor profile.