The Old Cuban cocktail is a must try! This modern classic champagne drink that’s a mashup of a Mojito and a French 75.
Want a Mojito topped off with champagne? (Yes, please.) Enter the Old Cuban cocktail: one part Mojito, one part French 75. Lucky for me, these are two of my all time favorite drinks. This mashup cocktail is a modern classic created by a famous bartender in the early 2000’s. And it’s truly an incredible drink. It’s minty fresh, with complexity from the bitters and vanilla and coconut notes from the aged rum. Combine it with a splash of bubbles, and it’s a cocktail masterpiece if you ask us! Here’s how to make this modern cocktail that’s solidified itself as a new classic.
What’s an Old Cuban cocktail?
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. 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.
This drink is now on the list of International Bartender Association’s IBA official cocktails, which includes all the classic cocktails (Martini, Manhattan, Old Fashioned and all the greats). It’s exciting to see this honor bestowed on a modern bartender: hats off, Audrey Saunders! The ingredients in an Old Cuban cocktail are:
- Lime juice
- Simple syrup
- Aged rum
- Angostura bitters
What makes the Old Cuban special
This drink has quickly risen to the top of our favorites list: it’s sweet tart, bubbly, refreshing, and it tastes like something you’d get at a fancy bar. Plus, it’s easy to make! As the name suggests, it’s a modern spin on one of the most famous Cuban cocktails (and you should try all of them, too!). Here are a few notes on what makes this drink so special:
- It’s made with aged rum. The Mojito is made with white rum, which has a very straightforward flavor. In contrast the Old Cuban cocktail is made with aged rum, which has a much more nuanced flavor (see below).
- It’s got a few dashes of bitters. Bitters are also used in cocktails to add complex notes that no other liqueur can muster. Here it adds a subtle intrigue that makes you want to keep sipping.
- It’s topped off with bubbles! It’s actually not much of a French 75 (gin, lemon, simple syrup, champagne)…it only takes the champagne part. But what drink isn’t better with a little bubbly?
How ours differs…slightly
Here we’ve used Audrey Saunders classic Old Cuban recipe, but tweaked it ever so slightly to give it our own spin. The drink calls for 1 ounce of simple syrup, and while it’s perfect as is, it’s a bit on the sweet side. We dialed back the simple syrup ever so slightly to 3/4 ounce. If you like tart drinks, you could use 1/2 ounce.
Golden or aged rum brings a nuanced flavor
Many rum cocktails use white rum or dark rum. But the Old Cuban cocktail uses a whole other category of this liquor: aged rum or golden rum! Aging rum for a few years gives it a complex flavor. Golden rum can have notes of vanilla, coconut, almond, citrus, or caramel. The aged rum that we used here was Brugal Añejo Rum.
Can’t find golden or aged rum or don’t have it on hand? You can substitute dark rum or white rum, and the drink will work. It’s just best with aged rum.
Use champagne, Prosecco or any sparkling wines
Now, you don’t have to use champagne for an Old Cuban! In fact, you can use any type of sparkling wine: just make sure it’s “brut” or dry. Typically we like the flavor of Italian sparkling wine, aka Prosecco. Prosecco is generally a little cheaper, usually around $15 per bottle. Here’s a little more about Prosecco vs Champagne and other sparkling wines you could use:
- Champagne: French sparkling wine. It’s the most expensive because the process to make it is the most involved. A good champagne is usually around $30 to $40.
- Prosecco: Italian sparkling wine. It’s a little sweeter than champagne and has lighter bubbles. You can also get a great bottle for $15!
- Cava: Spanish sparkling wine. It has more citrus notes, and is a little more savory and less fruity. Another great option!
How to make an Old Cuban cocktail
Once you’ve assembled your aged rum, champagne, and the other ingredients, it’s seriously simple to make an Old Cuban cocktail! It’s a traditional shaken cocktail that you’ll put together in a cocktail shaker. Here’s what to do:
- Muddle the mint. In a cocktail shaker, muddle the mint leaves (gently mash them) with the lime and simple syrup. Here’s more on How to Muddle Mint.
- Shake. Place the remaining ingredients in the shaker, add ice, and shake.
- Strain into a glass and top with bubbles. Strain the drink into a stemmed cocktail glass. Top it off with the sparkling wine! If desired, you can garnish with more fresh mint.
And that’s it: everything you need to know about the Old Cuban cocktail! Let us know what you think of this special drink in the comments below.
When to serve an Old Cuban
The Old Cuban cocktail is a festive and fun cocktail, great for impressing guests! It works as a:
- Summer drink
- Signature drink
- Cocktail hour drink
- Party drink
- Happy hour drink
- Dinner party drink
The Old Cuban cocktail is a must try! This modern classic champagne drink is a mashup of a Mojito and a French 75.
- 6 mint leaves, plus more for garnish
- 3/4 ounce (1 1/2 tablespoons) fresh lime juice
- 3/4 ounce* (1 1/2 tablespoons) simple syrup
- 1 1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) aged rum
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- 2 ounces (1/4 cup) champagne (or Prosecco or other sparkling wine)
*The classic recipe has 1 ounce of simple syrup; we slightly reduced it to fit our tastes.
- Category: Drink
- Method: Shaken
- Cuisine: Cocktails
Keywords: Old Cuban cocktail
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.