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For other meanings of 'Cuba Libre' see Cuba libre

The Cuba Libre (IPA /'kuβ̞a'liβ̞ɾe/ in Spanish, kjuːbʌ liːbɹeɪ/ in English, "Free Cuba") is a highball made of Cola, lime, and rum. This highball is often referred to as a Rum and Coke in the United Statesmarker and Canadamarker, where the lime juice is optional.


Accounts of the invention of the Cuba Libre vary. One account claims that the drink (Spanish for Free Cubamarker) was invented in Havanamarker, Cubamarker around 1901/1902. Patriots aiding Cuba during the Spanish-American War — and, later, expatriates avoiding Prohibition regularly mixed rum and Cola as a highball and a toast to this West Indies island.

The world's second most popular drink was born in a collision between the United States and Spainmarker.
It happened during the Spanish-American War at the turn of the century when Teddy Roosevelt, the Rough Riders, and Americansmarker in large numbers arrived in Cuba.
One afternoon, a group of off-duty soldiers from the U.S.
Signal Corps were gathered in a bar in Old Havana.
Fausto Rodriguez, a young messenger, later recalled that a captain came in and ordered Bacardi (Gold) rum and Coca-Cola on ice with a wedge of lime.
The captain drank the concoction with such pleasure that it sparked the interest of the soldiers around him.
They had the bartender prepare a round of the captain's drink for them.
The Bacardi rum and Coke was an instant hit.
As it does to this day, the drink united the crowd in a spirit of fun and good fellowship.
When they ordered another round, one soldier suggested that they toast ¡Por Cuba Libre! in celebration of the newly freed Cuba.
The captain raised his glass and sang out the battle cry that had inspired Cuba's victorious soldiers in the War of Independence.

However, there are some problems with Bacardi's account, as the Spanish-American war was fought in 1898, Cuba's liberation was in 1898, and the Rough Riders left Cuba in September 1898, but Coca-Cola was not available in Cuba until 1900.According to a 1965 deposition by Fausto Rodriguez, the Cuba Libre was first mixed at a Cuban bar in August 1900 by a member of the U.S. Signal Corps, referred to as "John Doe".

Along with the Mojito and the Daiquiri, the Cuba Libre shares the mystery of its exact origin.
The only certainty is that this cocktail was first sipped in Cuba.
The year?
1900 is generally said to be the year that cola first came to Cuba, introduced to the island by American troops.
But “Cuba Libre!” was the battle cry of the Cuba Liberation Army during the war of independence that ended in 1878.


This drink was once viewed as exotic, with its dark syrup, made (at that time) from cola nuts and coca.

Soon enough, as Charles H. Baker points out in his Gentlemen's Companion of 1934, the Cuba Libre "caught on everywhere throughout the [American] South ... filtered through the North and West," aided by the ample supply of its ingredients. In The American Language, 1921, H.L. Mencken writes of an early variation of the drink: "The troglodytes of western South Carolinamarker coined 'jump stiddy' for a mixture of Coca-Cola and denatured alcohol (usually drawn from automobile radiators); connoisseurs reputedly preferred the taste of what had been aged in Model-T Fords."

The drink gained further popularity in the United States after the Andrews Sisters recorded a song (in 1945) named after the drink's ingredients, "Rum and Coca-Cola." Cola and rum were both cheap at the time and this also contributed to the widespread popularity of the concoction.
A homemade Cuba Libre

Recipe variations

The Cuba Pintada ("stained Cuba") is one part rum with two parts club soda and just enough cola so that it tints the club soda. The Cuba Campechana ("straightforward Cuba") contains one part rum topped off with equal parts of club soda and cola. They are both popular refreshments, especially among young people.

A recent variation is the Coppertone which uses Malibu Rum (rum with a natural coconut extract) and Cherry Coke for the cola component. The resulting drink smells like suntan lotion and the name is an allusion to that.

Another recent variation is called the Cuba Light made with rum and Diet Coke.

Another variation of the Cuba Libre is the Cuban Missile Crisis. Compared to a normal Cuba Libre, it uses a higher proof rum, such as Bacardi 151 (75.5%).

An interesting variation of the Cuba Libre popular in the West Indies is a “Hot” Cuba Libre which includes a splash of Caribbean hot sauce (e.g. Capt'n Sleepy's Quintessential Habanero, or Matouk's).

Some people substitute Cream Soda and spiced rum to create a bright gold drink, often referred to as a Midas.

Another recent variation is the Venezuela Libre, inspired by the increasing cooperation between the revolutionary governments of Venezuelamarker and Cuba. It has 1.5 ounces of Venezuelan White Rum, 1.5 ounces of Venezuelan Gold Rum, 3 ounces of lemon mix, 1 lemon wedge and a dash of angostura bitters, diet coke is used instead of normal coke.

Virgin Cuba Libre is Cuba Libre without rum.

Local variations

The drink's name has evolved somewhat in both Cuba and the United States, where some choose to refer to it as a Mentirita ("a little lie"), in an opinionated reference to Cuban politics.

In Nicaraguamarker, when it is mixed using Flor de Caña (the national brand of rum) and cola, it is called a Nica Libre.

In Venezuelamarker the Cuba Libre Preparado ("Prepared Cuba Libre") includes a dash of gin and a dash of Angostura bitters.

In Spainmarker Cuba Libre is also called "Ron-Cola" and "Cubata".

In Australia, where the drink enjoys huge popularity, it is known simply as Rum and Coke. It is sold pre-mixed in cans. However, Bundaberg Rum, a dark rum, is generally substituted for white rum, a generic cola is used instead of Coke, and the resulting drink is served without lime.

In the UKmarker, the drink is most commonly served without the lime juice and ordered simply as a Bacardi and Coke. When the lime juice is included and rubbed around the rim of the glass it can be known as a Lou Bega, after the popular singer.

In Perumarker, a variation called Peru Libre is made with pisco rather than rum.

In the Netherlandsmarker the drink is commonly called Baco, from the two ingredients of Bacardi rum and cola.

In Puerto Rico it is called the Qbalibre when it is mixed using Ron Don Q, the rum is prefered by Puerto Ricans over Bacardi.

In Beverly Hills, Californiamarker mixing Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum with Coca-Cola is called a Ted's after Ted's of Beverly Hills Steakhouse proprietor Ted Bell.


  1. Cuba Libre Cocktail Recipe
  2. Theodore Roosevelt Association article on the Rough Riders [1]
  3. The Chronicle of Coca-Cola article on [2]

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