The Rum & Coke, also referred to as the “Cuba Libre” is a must know for all bartenders. This popular drink dates back to the 1900’s where it’s said to have been invented in Havana, Cuba around 1901/1902 during the Spanish-American War.
According to Bacardi:
“The world’s second most popular drink was born in a collision between the United States and Spain. It happened during the Spanish-American War at the turn of the century when Teddy Roosevelt, the Rough Riders, and Americans arrived in Cuba. One afternoon, a group of off-duty soldiers from the U.S. Signal Corps were gathered in a bar in Old Havana. Fausto Rodriguez, a young messenger, later recalled that Captain Russell came in and ordered Bacardi (Gold) rum and Coca-Cola on ice with a wedge of lime. The captain drank the concoction with such pleasure that it sparked the interest of the soldiers around him. They had the bartender prepare a round of the captain’s drink for them. The Bacardi rum and Coke was an instant hit. As it does to this day, the drink united the crowd in a spirit of fun and good fellowship. When they ordered another round, one soldier suggested that they toast ¡Por Cuba Libre! in celebration of the newly freed Cuba. The captain raised his glass and sang out the battle cry that had inspired Cuba’s victorious soldiers in the War of Independence.”
While Bacardi’s story sounds inspiring, there are some problems with it. The Spanish-American War was fought in 1898, Cuba’s liberation was in 1898 and the Rough Riders left Cubs in September of 1898. Coca-Cola was not available in Cuba until 1900 and according to a 1965 deposition, the first Cuba Libre was mixed at a Cuban bar in August 1900 by a member of the U.S. Signal Corps, referred to as “John Doe”. Regardless of its exact date, the Havana Club says that the only certainty is that the cocktail was first sipped in Cuba in 1900 when cola first arrived to the island.