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<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/savannahgrandfather/7164430090/" target="_blank">Cuban cocktails | © Bruce Tuten / Flickr</a>
<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/savannahgrandfather/7164430090/" target="_blank">Cuban cocktails | © Bruce Tuten / Flickr</a>

6 Traditional Cuban Cocktails You Have to Try

Picture of Barbara Maseda
Updated: 23 March 2017

Cuban cocktails are refreshing blends of tropical ingredients and local wisdom that make hot days more bearable using different combinations of rum, sugar, lemon juice, liquor, soda, aromatic herbs, and ice. Even if you’ve had these drinks anywhere else in the world, try the authentic flavors made with 100% Cuban ingredients.

Mojito

Probably Cuba’s most famous cocktail, the mojito has undergone dozens of international variations with tequila, gin, Metaxa, soju, or other local spirit substituting Cuban rum.

There are different theories about its origins, including one that goes back hundreds of years to before it was called mojito, when people would consume the same ingredients in Havana.

One urban legend credits Ernest Hemingway as playing a part in naming the drink: while describing the recipe to the bar staff at La Bodeguita del Medio, he mispronounced “manojito” (referencing the “mint sprig”) as “mojito.”

Ingredients: white rum (Havana Club 3 años), sparkling water, sugar, lemon juice, sprig of yerbabuena or mint, ice cubes

Daiquiri

One of Ernest Hemingway’s favorite drinks, the daiquiri was invented in the early 20th century near Daiquiri, a small village in eastern Cuba, by an American engineer who worked at a local iron mine. The drink expanded not only to the rest of the country but also to the United States via U.S. troops that had served in Cuba.

“The cradle of the daiquiri” is the motto of one of Havana’s most famous bars, Floridita, where a frozen version of the drink was invented by a Spanish bartender in the 1930s.

Most Cuban bars and restaurants serve variations of the daiquiri, usually prepared with white Havana Club rum (Carta Blanca 3 años). These include banana, strawberry, Hemingway, Floridita (with maraschino), Papa Doble (more rum than Floridita, no sugar), Rebelde (with mint liquor), and Daiquiri Mulata (with cocoa cream) variations.

Ingredients: white rum (Havana Club 3 años), sugar, lemon juice, five drops of maraschino, ice cubes

Cubanito

Think of this drink as a simplified Bloody Mary. Unlike our neighbors in Mexico and Central America, most Cubans tend not to like spicy food or sauces, so only a few brave people will drink cubanitos.

Ingredients: white rum (Havana Club 1 año), lemon juice, tomato juice, spicy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, salt

Cuba Libre

The Cuban “rum and coke,” Cuba Libre has been around from the very moment Coca-Cola started shipping its product to Cuba in 1900. The name means “Free Cuba,” referencing Cuba’s newfound independence from Spain.

The drink is sometimes also called Cubata, though usually only when it’s prepared with dark rum.

Ingredients: cola, lime, white rum (Havana Club 3 años)

El Presidente

Named in honor of former Cuban President Gerardo Machado (1925–1933), this drink became popular in the 1920s, probably when Machado was still popular—this is the president who gave Cuba the Capitol Building and Central Highway and had promised in his presidential campaign to turn Cuba into “the Switzerland of the Americas.”

Ingredients: white rum (Havana Club 1 año), vermouth, Curacao, grenadine, cracked ice

El Presidente | © Cocktailmarler / WikiMedia Commons

El Presidente | © Cocktailmarler / WikiMedia Commons

Canchanchara

Unlike all of the above, this is not a common cocktail on Cuban bar menus, but bartenders will still prepare one for you (provided you manage to pronounce its tongue-twisting name).

It is the oldest of all these traditional drinks; its origin dates back to Cuban wars of independence against Spain, when Cuban fighters drank it hot to keep warm at night. The cold version is still a popular drink, traditionally served in clay bowls.

Ingredients: honey, lemon juice, aguardiente (fire water), still water, ice