Hemingway Drinks: Cuba Libre Cocktail Recipe

Hemingway Drinks: Cuba Libre Cocktail Recipe

Hemingway Drinks: Cuba Libre Cocktail Recipe

We’re spending this week celebrating the larger than life exploits of one of the brightest stars in the drinkers’ constellation by sharing five of our favorite recipes from Philip Greene’s To Have and Have Anothera tour of the drinks from Ernest Hemingway’s life and writings. We hope our teaser inspires you to read the whole thing, a fun and fascinating read and drink.

While it played a cameo role in one of his novels, Hemingway didn’t seem to hold today’s drink in very high regard. Here’s a bit of dialogue from To Have and Have Not:

‘What will you have?’ asked Freddy

‘What’s the lady drinking?’ Harry asked.

‘A Cuba Libre’

‘Then give me a straight whiskey’

We’ve shared Harry’s/Hemingway’s disdain for the Cuba Libre, avoiding it as more of a marketing ploy than a drink. We were intrigued, though, to learn while reading To Have and Have Another just how old and brilliant a marketing ploy it was.

Just after the Spanish-American War, in the first years of the 20th century, Americans arrived in mass in a Cuba newly independent from Spanish rule. They brought with them a relatively new beverage, Coca-Cola. They savvily combined it with the local favorites of rum and lime, and with Cuba’s fresh blush of patriotism. When a Cuba Libre was offered with the toast of, ‘Vive Cuba libre!,’ who could refuse it?

The story was charming enough that we decided we’d give it a try. It turns out that when you use Mexican Coke, a decent aged rum, and just the right amount of fresh lime, it’s pretty refreshing. I bet it’s even better with a genuine Havana rum, now once again somewhat available to US drinkers.

Long live a free Cuba!


  • 2 oz aged rum
  • 4 oz Mexican Coke
  • 1/2 oz lime juice
  • lime wedge, for garnish


  • Combine the liquid ingredients in a highball glass.
  • Fill with ice.
  • Garnish with lime wedge.
  • Toast to a free Cuba.

Roberts & June