Latin Twist: Cuba Libre

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Cuba’s always been a part of my life, even though I haven’t been there, yet… Part pictures of my grandparents from the 1930s, part Celia Cruz (who’s singing to me as I write this!), part restaurants that my parents took me to in New York and Miami,  my father’s love of Cuban cigars, Afro-Cuban dance classes I took many years ago, reading Alejo Carpentier in college,  and of course thanks to mis amigos cubanos (my Cuban friends) Cuba has always held some intrigue for me. This interest has been fueled by friends’ visits to the island that I swore I could see from Key West. And now, big sigh, I see a trip in my future. In the meantime, and during this holiday season, I’m trying to keep things simple on the cocktail front, AND I’ve started going back to some classics.

The Cuba Libre, my friends, is a favorite in many parts of the globe. The  history of the Cuba Libre (Spanish for a free Cuba) varies. According to one popular account,  it was invented in Havana, Cuba around 1900  when patriots aiding Cuba during the Spanish-American War enjoyed mixing rum and cola and toasting to the island’s independence. The flavors seemed to meld well; the rest, of course, is history! Cuba Libre Now it’s funny: if you know me, you know I’m not a fan of sweet soda. Yet there’s something about this combination of coca cola, fresh lime juice, and rum that, like many others, I really enjoy. So, what should you serve with your Cuba Libres?  How about something salted like Pepitas, or Chimichurri-Topped Toasts,  TacosTostones (I’ll have to share that recipe with you!), and more. But what inspired me to write about the Cuba Libre today, aside from recent news events, is that it’s a super simple drink to make and serve during this crazy holiday time! In fact, thanks to my cousin Margaret, we just decided that Cuba Libres will be our  pre-Christmas Dinner Cocktails!

How should you make this cocktail? Well, there are three must-haves in a Cuba Libre: rum (and I prefer a light rum for mine, but dark rums also have their place with this cocktail!), fresh lime juice (YES! Must be fresh!), and coke. Oh–be sure to save a lime segment for garnish! I generally go for a 1 and a 1/2 to a 2-ounce rum pour. Serve your Cuba Libre in a tall glass. ¡Buen provecho! Enjoy!

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About Author

Maybe it was the dinner parties my mom always threw—or the hours I spent prepping and cooking alongside her (and then on my own!). Or maybe it was array of fabulous dishes that my family sampled in New York City’s richly diverse restaurants, but I’ve loved creating, savoring, and sharing food for as long as I can remember. Living in Spain, and later in Peru, also greatly influenced my life. These years abroad taught me Spanish—and about living in different countries--but also introduced me to teaching English as a second language, which I’ve done—mostly in the US-- for the past 20-plus (yikes!) years. I’ve authored two cocktail/tapas books, Mambo Mixers and Calypso Coolers, coauthored more than 15 others (mostly food related!), and raised two children. Now I'm chef and owner of my own restaurant, Mambo 64 in Tuckahoe, New York. My message is the same, whether I'm teaching, writing, running the restaurant or being a regular guest on the Spanish-language network Telemundo (on the morning show, Buenos Días Nueva York!). My belief in food—and the power of food—is far reaching, and is married with another one: the power of stories. I’m sure that if we could all sit down and have meals together, sharing both tastes and tales, we’d have peace on earth. Enjoy!

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