Cuba Libre Cocktail

I love a Cuba Libre Cocktail; it’s probably the easiest one to make and the combination of  sweet Coca-Cola and lime just hit the spot!

Cuba Libre Cocktail Seved in a Short Glass with Lime Wedge

This is a simple cocktail but it’s one of my favorites; simple to make and so refreshing it’s something I can drink year round.

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The truth is that long before I ever tried a Cuba Libre I was long hooked on Coca Cola with a slice of lime. Somewhere along the way (of course not until I was 21!!) I was introduced to my favorite drink with an adult beverage as part of the mix.

Immediate love. It may be a simple drink but it does not have a simple history.

After the end of the Spanish-American war in 1898, the United States occupied Cuba until 1902 and in a twist that seems appropriate for a major corporation in today’s climate, that also signaled the beginning of sales of Coca Cola in Cuba.

In August of 1900, while celebrating the US victory over Spain in Cuba, Captain Russell of the United States Army Signal Corps, ordered Bacardi rum (at that time THE rum of Cuba) with a Coca Cola and a slice of lime.

His toast of “Por Cuba libre!” in celebration of a free Cuba had a special political significance and was frequently used by Cubans and Americans alike; the name and the cocktail were forever married and that was that.

A second war more than 40 years later saw a resurgence in the popularity of this  drink.

By 1944, all American distillers, no matter their size, were required to turn 100 percent of their production over to Uncle Sam which resulted in low domestic supplies of many favorite liquors.

At the same time Caribbean rum was plentiful enough to make up for that.

With some irony, sugar was being rationed which meant most people did not have enough to make daiquiris or Collins cocktails but the one company that was big enough to pull strings and continue production? Coca Cola!

Prohibition eventually ended but this cocktail’s popularity did not. Though now made with any variety of different rums and coke from bottled to diet to caffeinated…it’s still a popular drink and still a symbol of ‘free Cuba’ by dissidents in that country.

Cuba Libre Cocktail

Recreating the ‘original’ Cuba Libre would be impossible today. It’s not just rumor or heresy, the truth is that Coca Cola at one time included a considerable amount of cocaine.t

Iwasn’t until 1904 when executives started to explore phasing out the cocaine content from the beverage; that was accomplished soon thereafter.

Bacardi moved their Cuban operation to Puerto Rico after prohibition so though there is some attempt by Bacardi to hang onto the Cuban legacy, they are no longer a Cuban rum so any attempt today to recreate that original drink with Cuban rum and a cola with cocaine would have to be a much more clandestine adventure then the one I took to secure ingredients.

I was excited just to find glass bottles of Coca Cola made in Mexico. They are typically manufactured with cane sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup and are more representative of Coca Cola from days gone by.

The ingredients may not be the same but in the spirit of hoping someday the people of Cuba are free, I say ‘Cuba Libre!’

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Cuba Libre Cocktail Seved in a Short Glass with Lime Wedge

Cuba Libre – Not just a Cocktail but a Story of Bacardi, Coca Cola and Cuba

Creative Culinary
A simple but spirited drink with an interesting history.
5 from 50 or more votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Course Rum
Cuisine Cuban


  • 4 oz Coca Cola
  • 2 oz rum I use light or dark, whichever one I have on hand
  • ½ lime cut in half


  • Squeeze the juice of the lime quarters into a tall glass.
  • Drop one of the lime quarters into the glass.
  • Add ice cubes.
  • Pour the rum into the glass and stir
  • Add the coke and stir gently.
  • Top with remaining lime quarter and serve with or without straws.


Nutrition Facts
Cuba Libre – Not just a Cocktail but a Story of Bacardi, Coca Cola and Cuba
Serving Size
1 cocktail
Amount per Serving
% Daily Value*
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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  1. Just read this article after going through 17 drinks I should know at Tasty on Buzzfeed. Now that it’s 2016 and we can visit Cuba, maybe we can get real Cuban rum again!

  2. Is it my math or are there too many quarter lime slices in the drink from one half a lime?
    One squeezed. One dropped. One used to top the drink.

    1. Well I thought the same thing at first when I read it…but no. The juice is squeezed from the quarters which are then used to garnish the drink in the glass; one under the ice and one on top. OK, for photographic purposes I might have put a fresh slice on top instead of a squeezed one but the recipe is correct. Squeeze two, one on bottom; one on top. Thanks for the heads up; I’ll probably edit to make that clearer.

      1. Thanks. Makes sense that way.

        I never put a squeezed anything into a drink. Just looks messy.
        My methodology got mixed with my math :>)

        1. It does allow for some of the oils from the zest to add to the overall taste and I don’t squeeze them so hard they look bad; why I use 2 I guess? I love that…methodology mixed with math!

    1. I always use dark rum too…I like it better in foods and I’m not the type to want to keep a bottle of each so dark it is. With a REAL Coke. Yummm.

    1. I was there. It had been awhile and when I saw the bottles of coke at the grocery; I had to. Glad I did. Unfortunately it’s not fit for diets. For me? ONLY good if I use the ‘real’ thing!

    1. Thanks Jen…ave doing them. Have a special one coming this Friday; the more I do them the more I love finding the history of some of them.

  3. First time here… I came over from Foodgawker. Beautiful pictures! Cuba libre is one of my favourite cocktails and one that brings back memories of the best holiday I have had so far… in Cuba. Funnily enough, they use some other cola now. Not sure if it is a Mexican or a Canadian brand. But the rum there is to die for. I am lucky enough to find Cuban rum in Australia too and it tastes soooo much better!!! 🙂 Great post!

    1. Thanks for such a nice comment…and a real life experience. I think Havana Club is THE rum of Cuba now; I’ll bet it is good! Thanks for the visit, nice to ‘virtually’ meet you!

    2. I recently found out along with North Korea, Cuba is one of the only places that can not ‘officially’ sell coca-cola. The Cuba libre is also sometimes named mentirta meaning “little lie”.

    1. Me too Priscilla…maybe I like it because it’s just so easy and so refreshing; not a lot of time and thought has to go into preparing it. Though I will think now each time I have one of the greater meaning I’m sure.

  4. I remember when i first heard the name of this cocktail, I wanted to know more about why it is called like this. I am loving the history behind it. This is actually one of my favorites.

    1. Thanks Wendy; I’m sort of getting into the history of drinks lately and it’s fun to find out how they came to be.

    1. I really didn’t drink until I was 21 and I was out of college by then so I, sob, do not have those experiences…but I do think it was the first cocktail and know I still love it today (of course, it might be that real Coke in a bottle that does me in!).

  5. Very interesting history of this drink. I used to drink Cola and lime too..well, diet coke and lime. I quit diet coke, but now I crave it – with lime. Dammit.

  6. Love the photos of the bottled coke, of course. I couldn’t help notice that I just needed a straw to go with….. where did you get the crushed ice? You’re going to laugh, because I am a regular at Sonic Drive-In for happy hour Diet Dr. Pepper with their crushed ice. ta da. :”) I love their ice so I’m thinking if you have a secret maybe you could share? I learned some history which, I might add kept me on the page and apparently may other pairs of eyes as well. YAY! Thanks Captain.

    1. Really seriously laughing out loud AmyRuth. My secret? Sonic. Yes it’s true. My icemaker was on the fritz and I had always noticed their sign selling ice so I bought some til I could get it fixed. I love it more; I’m not fixing it. I buy a bag every two weeks!

    1. Yes…it all started way back then and for me…the love continues to this day. Lasted longer than a husband. 🙂

  7. Rum and Coke reminds me of college. This was what people who didn’t like alcohol would drink. Your story is fascinating and I didn’t know all of this. Pretty cool, B!

    1. Me too…but I have always loved this drink. The lime makes all the difference. I can’t even drink a regular coke without lime to cut the sweetness…but with it. YUMMO (she said in her best, ‘I am NOT Rachel Ray’ voice). :O

    1. I do too Daisy. Truth is I don’t drink much diet soda; I have it on hand but I would take a glass of ice water over soda typically…but LOVE having the occasional real bottle of coke; my sister sent me a six pack for Christmas once she knows how much I love those little bottles!

  8. Mexican Coca Cola is a gift from the gods. I love that it’s sold in supermarkets anywhere there’s a good sized Mexican community around. Heck, Costco has it from time to time, too.

    I remember drinking a lot of it in Tijuana, when I would cross the border with my mom to go shopping. It was the only thing kids could drink since you couldn’t drink the water there. Boy was it delicious, but I swear it made you thirstier!

    1. It is so good isn’t it? I found this at King Soopers but I have seen it at Costco too; seems that was months ago. I don’t drink diet soda…I’m a water kind of girl but I LOVE real coke in a bottle. I only bought two bottles so I wouldn’t go nuts. Which I think I might do now…now that I’m thinking about it; I’m DYING for some.

      Have you moved yet or still here in Colorado? As much as I love Colorado; I sure loved Boston too…both great places to live in my book.

    1. Lori, I have searched and searched for those recipe files and just can’t locate them. If you have a local Nordstrom’s could you contact their cafe and ask for theirs. I’m overwhelmed with work right now and my connection there has moved on so I would have to do a lot of leg work to get that again. Let me know how it goes…Barb

  9. I had to laugh when I saw this post this morning. Last night while watching reruns of The Big Bang Theory Sheldon ordered a Cuba Libre without the Cuba while Penny was practicing her bartending skills. I had never heard a rum and coke called a Cuba Libre before and it was such a coincidence, I had to smile.

    Your shot is awesome. It almost makes me want to order a Cuba Libre, but I’m like Sheldon, I’ll have mine sans the Cuba please. And don’t forget the lime!

    1. Hehe…I’m on the cutting edge I tell ya! Now I would think w/o the Cuba would be just the coke and lime. Oh no you don’t sister…gots to include the booze!

  10. Loved this history lesson. I did not know that Coca-Cola once contained cocaine! Gives a whole new meaning to being stoned drunk! Great post Barb.

    1. Doesn’t it though? Now that you know, the name makes more sense doesn’t it? Those were seriously good times…just amazing to think that it was legal; I shake my head every time I think about that!

      1. As to cocaine in Coca Cola – I’m sure there were good times involved but my memory of the concoction in my home town is very different.I lived in a textile town. Cotton mills were everywhere. Very labor intensive manufacturing – VERY. In the mills Coca Cola was referred to as “dope” and was delivered around the plants on the “dope wagon”.I was a child but many of my family and neighbors worked in the mills – there was nothing else.The mill owned the town. Cocaine added spurts of energy that enabled underpaid labor to work harder.There is no doubt the mill owners knew the product and what it would do for profits.I’m sure they had a hand in how it was manufactured also.These people literally worked themselves into early graves.
        Mostly white workers – white slaves. Not many street demonstrations over their slavery though.That’s another story though…..

        1. Wow…that’s certainly an untold story Mike; thanks for sharing.

  11. I guess I never thought about the origination of this drink even though I mixed a million of them while bartending in my 20s. Interesting story. It conjures up the scenes in The Godfather when they were visiting then fleeing Cuba. I would loved to have had one of those original drinks. Those people knew how to party.

  12. I love Cuba Libres, but haven’t had one for so long. This was such a fun post to read – I had no idea about this history of this drink. Now, each time I drink one, I’ll have to give a toast to Captain Russell.

    1. I always knew what the words meant but not the full details of how the name transpired. It was an interesting history lesson. Maybe if all history lessons when I was a kid could have brought in a food or beverage reference I would have found it more interesting. 🙂

        1. I did not know that and it makes sense. Some country or leader has always wanted to control Cuba and it’s people; I’m sure I would feel the same way.

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