It’s late summer, and in spite of the tropical environment here on the Isle of Palms in sunny South Carolina, Daiquiris have begun to finally lose a bit of their zest. I’ve spent the last several days indulging in the semi-sweet citrus concoctions, mixed with a healthy diet of jogging twice a day on the Atlantic shoreline, swimming during the hotter parts of the day. Leading such an unaffected lifestyle, cool cocktails comprise the later portions of most weekdays; thus, in a mild state of desperation, I decided to try and spice-up my beverages before fall arrived (and without having to resort to purchasing spiced rum). An attempt to do so led me to an almost forgotten aspect of mixology in my own extensive repertoire, resulting in both a tasty–and semi-historically accurate–mixed drink capable of ending most any business day with a light (sweet) kick: the Cuba Libre.
According to fairly recent legend, “¡Por Cuba Libre!” was the battle cry of the Cuba Liberation Army during the war of independence, which ended in 1878. An infamous collision involving the United States and Spain, the Spanish-American War, upon ending, provided a window by which Teddy Roosevelt and his “Rough Riders” could land for a brief excursion in Cuba. Most proponents of Daiquiri and Rum-and Cokes cite that one hot afternoon, a group of off-duty soldiers from the U.S. Signal Corps met in a bar in Old Havana. A young messenger by the name of Fausto Rodriguez would later recall how a captain came in and ordered Bacardi Gold blended with Coca-Cola (keep in mind, this soft drink wasn’t introduced to Cuba until 1900) on ice with a wedge of lime. The captain was said to have “drank the concoction with such pleasure that it sparked the interest of the soldiers around him.” Thus, the onlookers urged the bartender to mix a round of the captain’s new-found pleasure for them, too. “The Bacardi rum and Coke was an instant hit,” states the Bacardi website, and in honor of their recent battle cry, “¡Por Cuba Libre!”, the beverage was named thusly.