You may not realise it, but Cuba is the birthplace of several of the world’s best-loved and most famous cocktails. So, it would be a shame not to sample a few of them while you’re on holiday in the Caribbean country.
It’s well known that the nation produces some of the tastiest rum on the planet (think Havana Club and Ron Matusalem), largely due to its prolific sugar cane production (which is what the spirit is distilled from). There are numerous producers who continue to distill their rum in Cuba, some of whom have been operating on the island since the 18th century.
If you want to learn more about the production process, it’s worth visiting Havana’s Rum Museum during your trip – you can find out more about all the options for itineraries on the island here.
We’re going to turn our attention to Cuba’s top cocktails though – be certain to seek out at least one of these in a traditional bar.
The Cuba Libre is a classic, if somewhat unexciting, cocktail. It is essentially a white rum and coke mix with a twist of lime, a very refreshing drink on a hot day! Although there are varying accounts of its origin (and why it was named the Cuba Libre), it is generally agreed that it was first invented at the start of the 20th century.
There are several variations of this cocktail, some of which use a higher-proof or darker rum, while others add club soda (like the Cuba Campechana) to the drink. If you have it with diet coke, it’s known as a Cuba Light.
The Mojito is a classic Cuban cocktail that, when made properly, really allows the flavours of the rum to shine through. This (along with the daiquiri – which we’ll come to in a minute) was among Ernest Hemmingway’s favourite cocktails. If you want to sample a Mojito in similar surroundings to the famous author, head to the Bodeguita del Medio in Havana.
A Mojito is made by mixing lime juice and sugar together, before gently crushing mint leaves into the mix in a process known as muddling. A double shot of white rum is added to the glass, which is then topped up with ice cubes (or crushed ice in some places) and a splash of soda.
It’s believed that the first incarnation of the Mojito came into existence as far back as the 15th century, when sailors following the earliest trade routes to the Caribbean mixed the locally-distilled rum with other flavours found on the island. Of course, the process and ingredients have been somewhat refined over the years, with many variations of this popular drink now in existence.
The final top Cuban cocktail on our list is the Daiquiri, which shares many of the same components as a Mojito – lime juice, sugar, rum and ice. While this is the original version of the cocktail, many people now serve variations including various kinds of fruit purees, so there’s a wonderful selection of flavoured Daiquiris out there.
Another key difference between a Daiquiri and a Mojito is the glass they’re served in – Daiquiris will be presented in a cocktail glass, while Mojitos are made in a highball.
For an authentic Cuban experience, head to another of Hemmingway’s favourite haunts in Havana – the El Floridita bar in Old Havana. This particular bar serves up the Hemmingway Special – a Daiquiri that features a double measure of rum, so not one for the fainthearted!