Here are the best iconic Cuban cocktails to try! From the mojito to the daiquiri, Cuba has been at the epicenter of popular mixed drinks.
There are several cities that are epicenters of classic cocktails: and Cuba is one of them! This country has originated some of the most well-known cocktails of all time. The nightlife scene in Havana in the early 1900’s was second to none, and you’ll find some of the greatest names in drink history bubbling up from this Caribbean island.
Here are the top iconic Cuban cocktails to try! We’ll start with the most popular cocktails you know and love, then branch into some more unique mixed drinks. Whatever the case, this list of popular rum drinks has something for everyone!
Is there any Cuban cocktail more iconic than the mojito? The mojito is a sour cocktail that originates from Havana, Cuba! The origins of this drink are cloudy: some say it was invented in the 1500s, others in the 1800’s with the birth of the Bacardi rum company. In any case, its place as an iconic Cuban cocktail was solidified by the 1930’s when Ernest Hemingway helped to popularize the drink.
This classic cocktail is one of the greats. This recipe for the mojito is spot on perfection: not too sweet, bubbly, and minty fresh. Like the margarita, the true version has less sugar and more nuance than what it’s become in bars and pre-made mixes.
Ingredients: Fresh mint, lime juice, white rum, simple syrup, soda water
Tied for the most popular Cuban cocktails is the daiquiri! Turns out, a classic daiquiri is not frozen at all! Adaiquiri is a family of rum cocktails made with white rum, citrus juice (usually lime), and a sweetener. A classic daiquiri is shaken, strained, and served in a cocktail glass.
The modern daiquiri was thought to be invented by an American living and working in Cuba named Jennings Cox in 1896. Apparently he ran out of gin for the punch he was making and used plentiful rum instead. Since lemons weren't available in Cuba, he used limes. The drink was a hit! But it's possible the precursor to the daiquiri was even earlier: "grog" is a mix of lime juice, rum, and water that the British navy drank in the 1700's.
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. It's 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.
This drink originated in Cuba in the early 1900’s. “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 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 under the name "rum and coke."
Here’s a 1920’s slow sipper that’s begging to be part of your cocktail repertoire: the El Presidente! This Cuban cocktail never soared quite as high as the daiquiri or the mojito, but it’s something special in its own right. It’s sleek and sophisticated, like a Cuban spin on a Manhattan but using rum instead. It’s got some special ingredients and comes out boozy, subtly bitter with a sweet and citrus nuance.
The El Presidente was invented around 1910, named for the Cuban president: “El Presidente” means “the president” in Spanish. It was popular in Cuba in the 1920’s to the 1940’s, but is lesser known today: maybe because of the unique ingredients required to make it!
Here’s a tart, complex and refreshing classic cocktail for the adventurous drinker: the Hemingway daiquiri! This spin on the daiquiri is a classic cocktail invented in honor of the famous writer himself, Ernest Hemingway. It features sweet grapefruit to balance the acidity of the lime, and maraschino liqueur brings notes of sour cherry and almond. There’s a lot going on flavor-wise, but it’s very easy to make.
In the 1920’s, Ernest Hemingway started making trips to Cuba. He fell in love with the daiquiri at a bar called El Floridita and started to ask for his own version: double the rum and no sugar, which the bar called Papa Doble. Apparently this was impossible to get anyone else to drink, so the bar decided to create a more palatable version in his name. The Hemingway daiquiri was born!
Here's a bonus drink! The Old Cuban cocktail is not a cocktail that was invented in Cuba. But since it has "Cuban" in the title, we thought we'd throw it in for consideration. The Old Cuban is a cocktail invented by New York bartender Audrey Saunders in 2001 made with aged rum, mint, lime juice, simple syrup, and champagne. It’s essentially a combination of two classics: the Mojito and the French 75. The name is an obvious nod to Cuba as the birthplace of the Mojito.
Saunders is a bartending legend and creator of a few other modern classic cocktails, most notably the Gin Gin Mule (a Mojito and a Moscow Mule with gin). As you might guess, she’s known for re-inventing the classics. Once you sip one of her drinks, you’ll taste the genius of this modern classic.
More place-centered cocktails
What other cities and countries have originated some of the best cocktails? Here are some of the top contenders outside of these Cuban cocktails:
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.