The Cocktail Diaries: Cuba Libres

by Rebekahcooked up on January 26, 2014

Consider this blog post the first in a series. I’ve been thinking a lot about cocktails lately. Not that I would ever neglect my beer and wine pursuits, but cocktails to me are especially interesting right now. I love the nuances and depth of flavor. I love the amount of time and care that goes into making the ingredients that comprise a cocktail. As far as I can tell, not many other food items have so much delicate work that goes into them. So, I’m embarking on a kind of independent study of classic (and some non-classic) cocktails and what goes into them. And I’m going to call these posts my cocktail diaries.

For Christmas, Dave got me an excellent book about bitters, and my very first batch of them is about three days away from being done. More on that later. Today we’re talking about Cuba libres.

Cuba Libres | PDXfoodlove

First of all, Coke is across-the-board good in cocktails, especially when it is Mexican Coke, full of delicious, real sugar. Can we just agree on that? It’s not something we can drink every day, all the time. But darnit, Coke is delicious.

Cuba Libres | PDXfoodlove

Second of all, I do not ever drink Diet Coke, and I know a lot of folks like it, so I won’t go on a rant. But know that I won’t be testing it in any recipes and can’t speak for whether it would work as a substitute. Coke Zero is a little more tolerable, but I still would not recommend substituting it.

But back to the Cuba Libre. What I love about this cocktail is that it contains the meeting of two cultures. Rum has been shipped north to the US from the Caribbean for literally centuries. The colonists drank rum in the 1700s. Coca-Cola was invented in the 1880s and is associated with the US and Americana more than pretty much any other beverage. It makes sense that they would be brought together at some point.

Cuba Libres | PDXfoodlove

What’s even better, though, is how the two larger-by-volume ingredients are elevated by the two smaller ones. You won’t ever find me drinking a plain ol’ rum and coke again because the addition of lime and Angostura bitters makes this so much more interesting (and if I’m at a bar that has rum and coke but no lime or bitters, then I am at a terrible bar and should leave).

Here’s what you need for a rocks glass-sized drink:
1 to 1.5 oz white rum
Half a lime, cut in half again
Angostura bitters
Mexican coke (easiest to find at your neighborhood taqueria!)

Cuba Libres | PDXfoodlove

A word about ice: I recommend using the largest ice chunks you can get your hands on that will fit in your glasses. We have spherical ice molds. You can also buy silicone molds to make larger-than-normal cubes. But if none of those are handy, regular ice cubes will do just fine.

This is a cocktail you can build right in the glass.

Start by adding the ice to the glass. Squeeze the juice from one of your lime quarters into the glass and then drop the leftovers right in.

Next, shake four dashes of Angostura in. Pour in the rum and finish with Mexican Coke. If you have more Coke than you need, the bottles are standard cap size and can be recapped with the same capping tool used for homebrewing to save it for later.


  1. Bitters!? I like it! My wife is a big cocktail aficionado so I’ll send her this article today.

    Comment by Chris Caldwell @ World Cup of Food — January 27, 2014 at 4:22 pm

  2. Thank you for reading, Chris! Look for more cocktail coverage to come.

    Comment by bekky — January 28, 2014 at 10:06 am

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