Beverages, Recipes

Cuba Libre (Easy Cocktail Recipe)

Get a taste of the tropics with the Cuba Libre!

It’s the ultimate thirst-quencher with a smooth, boozy twist. You can make it in seconds and with just three ingredients: rum, Coke, and lime.

Cuba Libre with Lime and Ice on a Wooden Board

Cuba has a reputation for pumping out some legendary cocktails. And the Cuba Libre is no exception. 

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It’s one of the most popular libations to come from the country. So you know it’s worth a taste. 

Crisp, citrusy, and sweet, it’s quite the refreshment. If you need to wet your whistle, make yourself a tall Cuba Libre. 

What Is a Cuba Libre?

The Cuba Libre is a classic Cuban cocktail. Spanish for “free Cuba,” this simple drink contains rum, Coca-Cola, and lime. 

It’s a popular Cuban beverage that’s right up there with the piña colada and daiquiri. 

Like all the best cocktails, there are different stories surrounding its origin. But one stands out as the most common.

Born in Havana, the Cuba Libre came on the scene in the early 1900s. At the time, the Spanish-American War had just ended.

A U.S. Army captain was celebrating at a bar in Havana. He added Coke and lime to his rum, then toasted “Por Cuba Libre!” 

That’s the slogan for Cuban independence, meaning “to a free Cuba!”

Fact or fiction, one thing’s for certain: the name stuck and symbolizes a part of Cuban history.   

Glasses of Cuba Libre on a Wooden Board with Lime and Ice

What Is the Difference Between a Rum and Coke and a Cuba Libre?

The Cuba Libre and rum and Coke are two very similar drinks. They’re almost identical! 

But alas, they’re not the same drink. 

A rum and Coke cocktail only has two ingredients. The Cuba Libre contains rum, Coke, and lime.

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It’s surprising how much one ingredient changes the drink. It balances out the sweetness of the soda and brightens it up.

Try it for yourself, and you’ll see what I mean.

Ingredients

Leave the complicated cocktails for another day. You only need three simple ingredients for this drink. 

You might even have everything in your kitchen right now!

  • Lime wedges – A fresh lime wedge is a signature component. Without it, it’s simply a rum and Coke.
  • Gold rum – A Cuban rum will have the most authentic flavor. I use a gold rum like Havana Club. The flavor profile complements the sweet flavors of the Coke. But use any brand you like. 
  • Coca-Cola – Coke is traditional. Use Mexican Coca-Cola if you can find it. It’s made with cane sugar and has a sweeter flavor than U.S. Coke. 
Homemade Cold Rum and Cola Cuba Libre

How to Make a Cuba Libre 

The Cuba Libre is about as easy as cocktails get. All you have to do is squeeze, pour, and stir.

Here are the simple steps: 

  1. Squeeze the limes. Pack a highball or tall glass with ice. Squeeze the limes on top and drop them inside. 
  1. Pour and stir. Pour the rum and Coca-Cola into the glass. Gently stir.
  1. Sip. Serve and enjoy!
Cuba Libre on the Rocks Garnished with Lime Slice

Tips and Tricks

Want to take your Cuba Libre to the next level? Follow these tips and tricks:

  • Be picky with the rum. Using a gold rum, especially Havana Club, elevates the drink. Its rich and nuanced flavors meld seamlessly with the lime and cola. You can also use Bacardi.
  • Only use fresh limes. When you’re using minimal ingredients, quality matters. So skip the bottled lime juice and only use fresh.
  • Don’t cheat on Coca-Cola! For a classic Cuba Libre, use Coca-Cola. Other cola brands won’t have the same flavor. I particularly like the sweetness of Mexican Coke. Look for it online or at a local Latin market. 
  • Muddle the lime. For a bigger citrus twist, muddle the limes in your glass. It will release the juices and the oils, creating a brighter flavor.
  • Garnish it with lime wheels. Add one to the rim and some to the glass. They make the drink look even more refreshing. 
  • Customize it as you wish. Add more Coca-Cola to make it less stiff. Likewise, you can add another ounce of gold rum for a stronger drink. 
  • Presentation is key. There’s something extra refreshing about the look of this cocktail in a highball glass. But use any tall glass you have.
Cuba Libre