Distinguished cocktail writer Dale DeGroff says Coca-Cola followed American soldiers to Cuba during the Spanish-American War of 1898, and—soldiers being soldiers—fortifying Coke with ubiquitous Cuban rum was only natural. “Cuba libre! (Free Cuba!)” was the rallying cry of Cubans (and probably some hammered U.S. soldiers) keen on overthrowing Spanish colonial rule. Technically, it’s the spritz of lime that distinguishes a Cuba Libre from a regular old Rum and Coke.
What to buy: Look for a Cuban-style rum, such as Lost Spirits Distillery’s 151 Proof Cuban Style Rum. Mexican Coke in the traditional bottle is believed to be sweetened with cane sugar, rather than the high-fructose corn syrup of American Coke. If nothing else, it just looks cooler on the bar.