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Posted August 22, 2011 by publisher in Cuban Culture

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The Battleship Maine exploded in Havana harbor in February 1898. In the summer of 1898, Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders took San Juan Hill in Santiago de Cuba and by the end of that year, the Spanish American war was over.

The United States occupied Cuba from 1898 to 1902 and Coca Cola was now for sale in Cuba.

In August 1900, while celebrating the US victory over Spain in Cuba, Captain Russell of the United States Army Signal Corps, ordered Bacardi rum with a Coca Cola and a slice of lime. While holding up this new drink he toasted “Por Cuba libre!” in celebration of a free Cuba. The words Cuba Libre - meaning Free Cuba - had a special political significance, and were frequently used by Cubans and Americans alike. The drink remains popular to this day and for many is a hope for a freedom in Cuba from another oppressive government.

Cuban Rum History

“The fact that the Cuba Libre cocktail continues to gain popularity after 111 years speaks to the exceptional quality and great taste BACARDI adds to this iconic drink,” said Eugenio Mendez, Senior Global Category Director - Rums.

In 1862, in Santiago de Cuba, Don Facundo Bacardi Masso revolutionized rum making by developing the world’s first smooth light-bodied spirit.

Today Bacardi is the world’s most popular rum. The company moved to Puerto Rico shortly after Fidel Castro took over Cuba and nationalized all businesses in Cuba.

Matusalem rum was also extremely popular in Cuba and began around the same time as Bacardi. The company went out of business after the Revolution in Cuba but the fourth generation started producing the rum again in 2003 with the Cuban family recipe in the Dominican Republic.

Havana Club rum is made in Cuba and was founded in 1878 by José Arechabala. This brand is very popular outside of the United States since sales in the US are banned due to the trade embargo on Cuban imports. Bacardi also makes a Havana Club brand from the US, with very limited sales, and is in a long trademark dispute over the Havana Club rum brand.

Cuban Rum Drinks

Rum is the key ingredient to legendary cocktail recipes like the Mojito, the Daiquiri (enjoyed frequently by Ernest Hemingway in Cuba) and the Pina Colada.

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, ideally bottled. Stir gently.

Personally I prefer my Cuba Libre with Matusalem rum and diet, caffeine free Coca Cola.

Excerpts taken from Bacardi rum press release, written by Rob Sequin, publisher of Havana Journal.

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