Sunday, May 18, 2008
Rethinking the Cuba Libre
Some drinks are classics, not because they are terribly complex concoctions, or require a the skill of a master mixologist. Some are simple, easy, and perfect combinations. The Cuba Libre is one of them. Simply rum, coke and a wedge of lime, its a drink thats hard to screw up and, while not usually my first choice in cocktails, a safe bet in any bar.
I do have a couple of caveats. One, the lime needs to be a healthy wedge. An anemic little nugget of lime doesn't add enough acid to this drink to make it truly classic. I usually use an 1/8th of a lime on each Cuba Libre.
Second, be careful of your choice of cola. Ever wonder why no one orders a rum and Pepsi? Its because Pepsi is too sweet, it lacks the bite that makes Coke such a classic pairing with rum.
Today, I wanted to rethink what it is to have a Cuba Libre, to update this drink and possibly add some more interesting notes to it. First off, I wanted to use Mexican coke. Mexican coke is a far superior product to that made in the United States as Mexican coke is made from cane sugar, not high fructose corn syrup. Unfortunately, the little Mexican market in my neighborhood only stocks Mexican Pepsi, so I was out of luck there. I went to Whole Foods and found Boylan's Cola made from cane sugar. In retrospect, I should have held out until I got Mexican coke as the Boylan's (which is a very enjoyable cola) was a bit too soft for what I'd ultimately like to achieve.
Second, instead of using Cuban rum (unavailable in the US anyway), I thought I'd continue the cane sugar theme and use cachaca. I was putting a number of things in the smoker today, and I put about 6 oz of Cabana Cachaca in the smoker for 3 hours. One note, even though I tried to keep the smoker to 180 or less, I still lost about 1/2 the volume to evaporation. The smoked cachaca added a very interesting note, almost reminiscent of a good, single malt scotch in some ways, but with a unique character all its own.
In the end, I ended up using 2 ounces of smoked Cabana Cachaca, 3 Tovolo Perfect Cube Ice Cubes, Boylans Cola to top and a 1/4 lime wedge as a garnish. The result was far more complex than a traditional Cuba Libre, but the Boylans didn't provide quite enough bite to make this a truly perfect cocktail. Next time, I'm using Mexican coke, and I think I've got a new classic for barbecues and parties at the Mayhew household.
Thanks for reading