I recently traveled to Central America and re-discovered the simple pleasure of sipping Rum & Cokes on the beach (AKA the Cuba Libre). We all have our go-to vacation cocktails, a drink that we glimpse on a cocktail menu months later that sends us right into a daydream of our long-lost beachside bar. It had been a couple of years since I’d taken an extended international trip and I ordered my first couple Cuba Libres at restaurants before gathering my own supplies for our hotel room at a local bodega.
As I lost track of the days and prematurely finished all the books I had set out to read, I looked at my tumbler and began wondering why I didn’t drink Cuba Libres back home? I realized that I generally opted for lowball cocktails, this is easily explained by the fact that I also don’t usually drink during the day or spend hours-on-end reading poolside. Nevertheless, I drifted off into a soon-to-be sunburned fantasy of transforming my favorite flavors from the Cuba Libre into a classy lowball drink.
It didn’t take long for me to look towards the classic Mai Tai recipe and start subbing out ingredients that could achieve my desired flavor profile. At this point (and for purposes of moving along with this article) I couldn’t wait to get home to start experimenting. After a little research, I found that it was quite easy to make a Coca-Cola simple syrup and that I could easily sub it in for the Mai Tai’s Orgeat syrup. From there, the rest would be a taste-testing experiment with some of my trusted comrades.
All in all, we landed pretty close to a classic Mai Tai recipe but we did have quite a bit of fun in the experimentation process for some crazier concoctions along the way. The recipe below is what we felt best replicated the flavor profile of a classic Cuba Libre, albeit in a short glass. It sips a bit like an old fashioned, but with all the vanilla-y goodness of a Rum & Coke with lime on the beach.
I’d encourage anyone reading this to experiment on your own and let me know what variations you come up with. Some of my favorites included adding a touch of Amaro to add an herbal element, or using Licor43 to get even more vanilla going. Ultimately, this has become a go-to for filling up a vacuum-insulated Firelight 750 Flask and sharing it with my friends for happy hours in place of packing along a bottle of wine or a 6 pack of beer.
- Nic, High Camp Flasks Cofounder