Cuba Libre: A Revolutionary Cocktail's Spirited Origins

August 2022 marked the 122nd birthday of the Bacardi Cuba Libre. To say that its popularity has withstood the test of time would be stating the obvious: a cocktail doesn't live to be a 100-plus without being a crowd-pleaser, and by all accounts will easily cross its 150th year as well (unless we have a world-ending event, like an vengeful asteroid, or an alien invasion, or a zombie apocalypse, or a climate catastrophe). So absent all those variables we just listed, there's no reason why the Cuba Libre is going to see a decline in its predicted longevity.

The Bacardi Cuba Libre mixes an American classic (Coca-Cola) with the Cuban heritage of rum, achieving a closer bond than what many-a-statesman on either side of the Gulf of Mexico has tried to attain. (Or maybe we're just biased towards anything that involves a modicum of spirit, and we would always rate cocktail diplomacy higher than well, the regular garden-variety diplomacy.)

The prelude or prologue to the story of the Cuba Libre goes all the way back to 1862, in Santiago de Cuba, when Don Facundo Bacardí Massó developed the "world’s first smooth light-bodied spirit", naming it Bacardi rum. It became the spirit of choice in the creation of cocktails like the Mojito, the Daiquiri, and the Piña Colada. Its next chapter, however, was only a little over three decades away.

The actual Cuba Libre has its roots in the country's War for Independence in 1898, "when Colonel Theodore Roosevelt and his regiment, known as the Rough Riders, along with large droves of Americans, arrived in Cuba". The Americans brought with them Coca-Cola, and it quickly became a hot (or cool) favourite. 

Fast forward two years, and in the August of 1900, Captain Russell of the United States Army Signal Corps was having a round of celebratory drinks at the American Bar in Havana. He asked for a mix of Cuban Bacardi rum with Coke and a wedge of fresh lime. Soon enough, all of the soldiers drinking at the bar were clamouring to try one, and as they raised their glasses in unison, Russell shouted: “¡Por Cuba libre!” (free Cuba!).

In 2011, when the drink completed 111 years, a spokesperson for Bacardi rum noted that "more than 80 billion Bacardi Cuba Libre cocktails have been served since 1900, and close to six million are consumed every day around the world".

Here's the recipe for the Original Bacardi Cuba Libre:

2 parts Bacardi Rum

4 parts Coca-Cola

2 lime wedges

Ice cubes


Fill a highball glass with cubed ice. Squeeze and drop a fresh lime wedge into the glass. Pour in Bacardi Rum and top with chilled Coca-Cola. Stir gently.