The Cuba Libre cocktail, known more commonly as a rum and coke with a slice of lime, has a colorful history that dates to the early 1900s.
The phrase "Por Cuba Libre" translates to "Free Cuba," and was the battle cry of the Cuba Liberation Army during their war of independence from Spain that ended in 1898, according to The Havana Club
. There are multiple versions of how it became associated with the alcoholic beverage.
One story has Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders celebrating with the drink in Cuba after a series of successful battles, though Coca-Cola wasn't readily available in the country at that time.
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Another tale depicts a time in 1900, during the United States occupation of Cuba, when military personnel were in an Old Havana bar. This version tells of an American officer ordering the ingredients — by this time, Coca-Cola had begun selling in Cuba, according to the company's web site
— and loudly toasting with the words, "Por Cuba libre."
Those words ignited a raucous celebration, and became a common occurrence when requesting the now popular highball, according to the Havana Journal
Some versions are more detailed, offering such tidbits as identifying a captain in the U.S. Signal Corps as the person who ordered the drink, which is typically made with one part Rum, two parts cola and two lime wedges, according to Bacardi
For their part, Bacardi describes a scenario in which a Havana bar owner named Barrio created the drink for U.S. customers, who instantly approved. They toasted each other with the now famous phrase and the name of the cocktail was born, according to the CulinaryLore
Culinary Lore goes on to explain that determining the true origin of a cocktail "is often no more successful than trying to trace the origin of a cooking recipe," while agreeing that the drink is steeped in historical significance.
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Different versions of the drink also exist. Cuba Pintada and Club Campechana alter the amounts of rum and cola used, while a drink called the "Cuban Missile Crisis" uses higher proof rum.
The Spanish-American War began and ended in December 1898. The unexplained sinking of the U.S. Battleship Maine in Havana Harbor spurred the conflict when Spain refused America's ultimatum to relinquish control of Cuba.
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