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Heresy. I committed heresy. And it was just fine.

Suzi and I took a walk last Sunday from Tribeca to Hudson Yards, a sprawling complex of high rise apartments and businesses on the west side of Manhattan. There’s a restaurant complex there that includes a tapas bar. A very popular tapas bar.

As we stood for twenty minutes to get a seat, I watched the bartender. He picked up two slender, elegant glass vials and poured liquids into a rather hefty cocktail class. Then came a dark liquor of some sort. Then he opened a bottle of Coke and poured it in. He added ice and some lime juice and lime zest. Then he grated nutmeg over the top.

“I don’t know that that is, but I’m having one,” I told my wife. She agreed if she could have sips. She was going for the sangria.

When we sat, I snatched the cocktail menu to find out what the heck that drink was. Cuba Libre. Rum and Coke? No, a Cuba Libre.

Our Hudson Yards beverage was a long way from the original Rum and Coke. That drink became a Cuba Libre with the addition of fresh lime juice. Newer versions of the drink do call for bitters and I’m sure a healthy dose was added there at the tapas bar.

The classic recipe calls for light rum and Coke. Now my heresy begins. I used dark rum for bolder flavor, just like the tapas bar. And, while I do have Coke around, I am a Pepsi fan. And, lastly, I really increased the amount of lime juice. I’ve read that lime is one of the secret ingredients of Coke, and perhaps Pepsi. Adding on lime juice here just increases the citrus undertones.

How does this taste? Incredibly good. It does not taste like rum. Certainly not like Pepsi. Now I know why I the early 20th Century the Cuba Libre was one of the most popular drinks in America.

Time to bring it back. Coke or Pepsi. Light or dark.

Cuba Libre

Yield: 1 large cocktail


  • 1 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 2 ounces dark rum
  • 4 ounces Pepsi
  • About 8 drops of bitters


Add to the ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake well, pour into a glass with large ice cubes. Garnish with a wedge or two of lime.

And, yes, you can sprinkle some nutmeg and lime zest over the top.

Source: Brian O’Rourke

Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 60mm Macro Lens, F/3.5 for 1/30th second at ISO‑800