Here’s how to make the Cuba Libre drink, a 3 ingredient recipe! This cocktail is easy to make and similar to the Rum and Coke…but better.
Here’s a Cuban cocktail that’s made all over the world…because it’s just that simple. Meet the Cuba Libre! This drink recipe has just 3 ingredients: lime, cola and rum. Perhaps it looks and sounds similar to a drink you know? Yes, this famous Cuban drink is nearly a Rum and Coke…but there are a few subtle differences that make it a distinct drink. This classic cocktail has over 100 years of history and a refreshing, nuanced flavor. Here’s a bit about its origins, and how to make the best Cuba Libre drink around.
What’s a Cuba Libre?
The Cuba Libre is a 3-ingredient cocktail made with lime, cola and rum that originated in Cuba in the early 1900’s. Like many cocktail recipes, the exact origin story is murky. “Cuba Libre” means “Free Cuba” in Spanish. It’s a rallying cry that came from the Spanish American war in 1898, calling for Cuban independence from Spain. The drink came after the war, since Coca Cola didn’t come to Cuba until 1900.
The exact person who invented the Cuba Libre drink is unknown, but it became very popular in Cuba in the early 1900s and quickly spread to the US. The American version became dubbed “rum and coke.” But the Cuban version is a unique because it also uses lime juice, giving it a brighter, more tangy flavor than the 2-ingredient rum and coke.
How to make the best Cuba Libre drink: 2 tips!
The Cuba Libre is much better than a rum and coke, in our opinion. The lime juice helps to balance the sweetness of the cola. There are a few things that take this recipe to the next level and make the very best Cuba Libre drink:
- Muddle the lime wedges. Instead of just squeezing in lime, gently muddle the lime wedges in the bottom of your highball glass. This infuses even more citrus flavor because it releases the oils of the fruit. Use a cocktail muddler or wooden spoon. (Here’s more about How to Muddle.)
- Use aged rum. The original Cuba Libre likely used white rum, but aged rum makes it tastes even better. Aged rum has a complex flavor, with undertones of vanilla, coconut, almond, citrus, or caramel. You can absolutely taste the difference (we tried them back to back).
Types of rum to use: in order of preference
You can use any type of rum in a Cuba Libre! While we like it best with a golden or aged rum, it can work with any variety. Here are the types of rum to use in a Cuba Libre drink, in order of preference:
- Golden or aged rum (anejo): Aging rum gives it a complex flavor. Golden rum can have undertones of vanilla, coconut, almond, citrus, or caramel. The aged rum that we used here was Brugal Añejo Rum (añejo means “aged” in Spanish).
- Dark rum: Dark rum has a dark color and a rich, developed flavor with caramel, brown sugar, and vanilla notes. It works well here, and makes a vibe similar to a Dark and Stormy (the same drink using ginger beer).
- Pineapple rum: Pineapple rum is a popular flavored rum that’s distilled with fresh pineapple. If you have some on hand, it makes for a killer drink recipe.
- White rum: White rum is clear in color and has a straightforward flavor. It’s great in a Cuba Libre, but it makes it a little less interesting than the types of rum above.
More Cuban cocktails
The Cuba Libre is one of a few iconic Cuban classic cocktails. In fact, this country has originated some of the most well-known cocktails of all time! You’ll find some of the greatest names in drink history bubbling up from this Caribbean island. Once you’ve made this Cuba Libre recipe, make sure to try:
- Classic Mojito This bubbly and minty refreshing drink hails from Havana and became a classic in the 1920’s and 1930’s.
- Classic Daiquiri The classic daiquiri isn’t frozen at all! It was invented in 1896 and stars white rum, lime and sweetener, served up in a cocktail glass.
- El Presidente Cocktail This drink is like a rum spin on a Manhattan: strong and boozy with lots of nuance in flavor.
Variations on the Cuba Libre
The Cuba Libre spawned a myriad of cocktails that mix liquor and coke! Here are a few ideas to try — each have their own unique character! Use the same Cuba Libre ratio unless otherwise noted:
- Jack Daniels for Jack and coke
- Any whiskey or bourbon for Whiskey and coke
- Gin for Gin and coke
- Red wine for a Kalimotxo (use equal parts wine and coke)
- Tequila for Tequila and coke
- Vodka for Vodka and coke
- Crown Royal for Crown and coke
- Hennessy for Hennessy and coke (use 1.5 ounces Hennessy to 4 ounces coke)
When to serve this Cuba Libre recipe
The Cuba Libre is bold, refreshing, cheap, and beyond easy to make. It’s perfect for sipping as a:
- Summer drink
- Happy hour drink
- Dinner party drink
- Late night drinks drink
- Guys or girls night drink
- Cocktail hour drink
Here’s how to make the Cuba Libre drink, a 3 ingredient Cuban cocktail recipe! It’s beyond easy to make and similar to the Rum and Coke…but better.
- 2 ounces (1/4 cup) aged rum
- 3 ounces (6 tablespoons) cola
- 2 lime wedges
- Ice, for serving (try clear ice!)
- Add the lime wedges to a highball glass and gently muddle them with a cocktail muddler or wooden spoon to release their juices.
- Add the rum and ice and stir to combine. Top with the cola.
- Category: Drink
- Method: Stirred
- Cuisine: Cocktails
Keywords: Cuba libre, Cuba libre drink, Cuba libre recipe
About the Authors
Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.
Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.